The Tailgater's Guide to Cougar Football: Week One

Please, someone, stop this thing before it kills us all.

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.

The Game

Stanford Cardinal (0-0) at Washington State Cougars (0-0); 3:00 p.m. PT

Location

Martin Stadium, Pullman, WA

Coverage

TV: Fox Sports Northwest (announcers TBD), FCS Pacific
Radio: Cougar Sports Radio Network

Last Meeting

2008 (at Stanford): Stanford 58, WSU 0

The Line

Stanford -16.5

Why you should care: Cougar football is back! And not a moment too soon. And, for the first time since the season opener last year, WSU fields a (mostly) healthy lineup on both sides of the ball. It's WSU's first shot at a win in 2009, and one of the best opportunities they'll have to steal a conference victory. It's also the first chance to see some marquee freshmen take the stage for WSU: WR Gino Simone, DE Travis Long and LB Darren Markle, among others.

Most intriguing storyline: Kevin Lopina will start at quarterback for the Cougars, with Marshall Lobbestael relieving possibly as early as the third or fourth series. Will one of the two QBs distance himself from the other? More importantly, will either have success?

Key matchup: Stanford's Toby Gerhart against WSU's defensive line. In one half of football against the Cougars last year, Gerhart ran for 132 yards and four (!) touchdowns. Needless to say, WSU's revamped defensive line with Kevin Kooyman and Travis Long need to buckle down to keep this game competitive.

Why Stanford might win: If the Cardinal can keep turnovers to a minimum and run over the Cougar defense with ease, they should have this one in the bag. The Stanford passing game is questionable, but then again so is the WSU defensive backfield. It should still be advantage Cardinal. This is essentially a must-win for the tree's bowl hopes in 2009, given their difficult end to the schedule.

Key Player (Stanford): Gerhart. Obviously. Grippi has a good article on him in this week's Spokesman-Review.

Why WSU might win: If the three-headed rushing monster of James Montgomery, Dwight Tardy and Logwone Mitz is successful, it could take the pressure off the rotating quarterbacks and keep WSU in the game. If the Cougs can force Stanford to make some mistakes (read: turnovers) and keep Gerhart's rushing yards to a minimum, they have a chance.

Key Player (WSU): Lopinastael. One of the two Cougar quarterbacks has to have success passing the ball for WSU to remain in this one. Handing it off to the backs can be successful, but when Stanford loads the box it'll be up to Kevin or Marshall to make a play.

09-park-lawson-couple_medium
Pregame activity:
Lawson Gardens. Sure, not the most manly outing out there, but this will satisfy your significant other's need for something other than football, and give you an opportunity to see the place perennially voted "Pullman's best kept secret" by Daily Evergreen readers. It's also one of the last chances to get there before everything turns brown in the fall. And while they don't allow dogs (booooo), it's still worth a walk around. Of course all of this assumes you can find the place, which is almost statistically impossible. Ask a local. Or Google Maps.

Pre- or postgame meal suggestion: LocoGrinz Hawaiian BBQ, Moscow. If you have the urge for ridiculously good Hawaiian food, make the drive across the border to LocoGrinz. Or better yet, call and order ahead so that it's ready by the time you get there. Everything on the menu is enticing, but nothing tops the Pulled Pig (a.k.a Kalua Pork) with noodles on the side. Also worthwhile is the Korean BBQ chicken, if you can handle the spiciness of the sauce.

There are rumors of a second location opening up in downtown Pullman sometime soon. If so, I'm there.

Travel Tip of the week: When parking on campus, it's important to have an escape plan. Does your parking lot empty into the horror that is the North end of Stadium Way? Or can you sneak down Colorado or another side street to your freedom downtown? Sometimes parking farther away from the stadium has its benefits - although if you're clear out by the rec center you may have to resort to going through apartmentville and/or through Airport Road before you can get home. Best bet: If you're going to park farther away from campus, park closer to downtown or Dissmores.

Or, better yet, bring your RV and avoid all the traffic.

Gametime snack of the week: Cashews. Obscenely delicious, and easy to sneak into games in small quantities. I'm kidding of course about sneaking things into games - you should really spend $3.50 on a pretzel that costs probably $.50 cents to produce. Although, it's hard to complain about college concession prices after you've been to a Mariners game.

PREDICTION: I would love to see the Cougars start off 2009 with a huge conference win. Unfortunately, Toby Gerhart is still too much for a rush defense that was horrific last year and will only be marginally improved this fall. The Cougs may keep it close in the first half, but the Cardinal prove to be too much to handle. Stanford 38, Washington State 17.

Pac-10 Picks:

Oregon 38, Boise State 34 (Thursday). The Broncos are nearly unbeatable on their home blue turf (blurf?), but I still think Oregon brings in too much talent to let an early win slip away.
Oregon State 63, Portland State 7. Remember how awful we were last year? We still drubbed Portland State. That can't be a good sign for the Vikings when they travel to Corvallis.
USC 49, San Jose State 6. That's an easy enough prediction to make.
UCLA 38, Stan Diego State 14. These last two feel like the exact same game. Enjoy your blowouts, L.A.!
Arizona 31, Central Michigan 17. Arizona always seems to have an early season game where they are far from impressive. This could be it in '09.
Arizona State 56, Idaho State 3. So many close, exciting games this week, I surely won't fall asleeeeeeeeoqhfjrfesvqbefvejnvejrngjqtngejon
California 38, Maryland 21. California has gone from perennial also-ran to a school with a chance to sweep both the Pac-10 basketball and football titles this school year. Ugh.
LSU 49, Washington 10. Please. I've never gambled on sports, but LSU -17.5 is the most tempting line I've seen in a long, long time. UW hasn't improved that much.

Season record: 0-0

Now to wrap things up, our burning question of the week. See you at the game, and Go Cougs!

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