A weekly series from CougCenter, the Tailgater's Guide is dedicated to helping you prepare for all the action on Cougar Football Saturday; both on the field and off.
Hawai'i [Rainbow] Warriors (1-0) at Washington State Cougars (0-1)
Qwest Field, Seattle, WA, 4 p.m. Pacific
TV: SWX (Spokane), Check local listings and cross your fingers
Radio: Cougar Sports Radio Network
2008 (at Hawai'i): Hawai'i 24, WSU 10
Why you should care: Oh my goodness we might actually win a game.
Most intriguing storyline: With WSU's contract with First and Goal expiring, this could be the last Cougar game at Qwest for quite some time. Or not. Either way, can the Cougars get a win out of a neutral site game against an opponent that struggled with a FCS team last week?
Key matchup: The Hawai'i passing game against the depleted Cougar defensive backfield. Will the Greg-to-Greg combo of Hawai'i's Alexander and Salas burn the Cougars for a big play or two? Or will Brandon Jones and Chima Nwachukwu step up and keep the Warriors' passing game grounded? With Eric Block and Aire Justin among others questionable in the Cougar defense, there may not be enough talent and depth available Saturday to prevent an aerial assault.
Why Hawai'i might win: Despite a (literally) brand new group of defensive starters, Hawai'i still boasts a formidable offense and is looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2008. Greg Alexander and co. may just be able to put together enough points to outscore WSU's anemic offense, which will no doubt try to take advantage of the Warriors' D weakness.
Key Player (Hawai'i): Greg Salas. An extremely talented wideout, Salas burned Central Arkansas (yes, it's a real college) for 180 yards receiving and a 66 yard run that put Hawai'i in position to score the game winning touchdown last week. He's for real, and it's key that WSU's defensive backs keep him in check.
Why WSU might win: Position to position, this is one of the few teams on the schedule in 2009 that WSU matches up well with in terms of talent. If Wulff's no huddle offense can take care of an inexperienced Warrior defense, the Cougs' may have enough firepower to come away with a W. Question is: who scores the points? Montgomery? Tardy? Anderson? Simone? The Cougs need someone to have a breakout performance.
Key Player (WSU): Dwight Tardy. While Tardy played well in the season opener, he was in some ways overshadowed by James Montgomery's power running and kick return game. The Cougs need Tardy in this one as part of a two (sometimes three) headed rushing attack to set up the passing game. If he can break a big run or two, there will be a lot less pressure on Kevin Lopina and a lot more opportunities to score.
Pregame activity: Crashing the UW versus Idaho game at 12:30 p.m. Nothing says you hate your rival like showing up at a game of theirs specifically for the fun of rooting against them. And, in this case, you also get to root for those lovable losers, your hometown Idaho Vandals! With Robb Akey at head coach and DeMaundray Woolridge at running back, you can even kind of pretend you're watching the Doba-era Cougars! And just like the Doba era Cougars, UW is down and susceptible to an upset. Well, probably not against Idaho. But a man can always dream.
Pre- or postgame meal suggestion: Purple Dot Cafe. The Seattle game is an important culinary event, as it is your only chance this year to pull off the mythical Dim Sum slash Cougar home game combination. If you can get over the vomit-inducing purple and yellow interior design (yeah, I know), you're going to get some incredible food here. Plus, the Cafe is within walking distance of the stadium, so you're covered there. Don't know what Dim Sum is? Scared to branch out to food that you can't get within a hundred miles of Pullman? Don't be. Just look around and pick out what dishes look good. And, if you're not sure, just say siu mai or har gau and you'll be set.
Travel Tip of the week: I don't know why I keep harping on parking issues, but for goodness sake do everything you can to avoid paying a ridiculous amount for parking in the stadium district. By ridiculous, I mean 20 dollars or more. Ten or less is acceptable, but if you try hard enough or stray far enough from Qwest you can find cheap and sometimes even free parking. I won't reveal my hiding spots, but they do exist. Come early, be willing to walk a little bit, and you'll be rewarded with enough money to buy overpriced concessions at the game.
Or - and this is always the best bet - if you have connections with someone who lives in downtown Seattle, stay with them and walk to the game.
Gametime snack of the week: Garlic Fries. Yes, they are way too expensive. They will also make your breath smell like garlic. So what. It's worth it.
Gametime beer of the week: Kokanee. Since this is the closest WSU gets to playing a game in Canada, I might as well suggest the glacier fresh tasting beer from those crazy folks up North. They spell color with a "u"!
PREDICTION: I'm kind of phoning in my Tailgater's guide this week, because hey man, I have student loans and I need to work. Therefore, refer to this week's podcast (scroll down) for my full explanation. WSU 28, Hawai'i 24.
Wake Forest 31, Stanford 24
Idaho 21, Washington 20
Tennessee 24, UCLA 21
California 77, Eastern Washington 7
USC 27, Ohio State 21
Arizona 34, Northern Arizona 13
Oregon 24, Purdue 17
Oregon State 28, UNLV 14
Season record: 8-1
Have fun at the game, and go Cougs!