The Tailgater's Guide to Cougar Football is a weekly series, published every Thursday, designed to prepare you for the upcoming week's matchup - both on and off the field.
Martin Stadium, Pullman, WA. 4:30 P.M. Pacific
Arizona 48, WSU 7 (2009)
Why It Matters
I'm not totally sold on the idea that one win guarantees a 2011 return for Paul Wulff. However, there are two games where it just might: this week against a ranked Arizona team, and next week on the road at Stanford. Possibly Apple Cup as well, but we'll save the discussion on that for when we reach it.
Arizona is vulnerable. WSU is finally playing quality football, and the Wildcats' psyche had to take a hit last week with a loss at home to Oregon State. That loss cost U of A a top 10 ranking and ruined the possibility of arriving at the midway point of the season undefeated. The Cougs may have had some off-the-field headlines this week, but I've often found those don't affect a team's play negatively; sometimes players rally around each other after being let down by one of their own. Add that to what should be a near-capacity Dad's Weekend crowd, and you have all the makings of an upset.
Having said that, we all know how it is with the Cougs. Every time you get your hopes up...
Key Matchup - [Insert opponent's running back] versus [insert Cougar D-Line and/or Linebacking unit]
Nic Grigsby, Arizona - Entering what I believe is his 17th year with the Wildcats (He enrolled at the same time as USC's Stanley Havili), Grigsby has given the Cougs a truckload of problems in the past. Just not last year, though, when he missed the game against WSU. Of course, the Cougars were still blown out.
Jeff Tuel, WSU - I would love to pick James Montgomery, or Logwone Mitz, but the conference's worst rushing attack (2.63 yards/att) goes against the conference's best rush defense (2.85 yards/att) this week. The stoppable force versus the immovable object. It's going to be on Tuel's shoulders once again, and if the miraculous happens, he'll have his first signature win as a Cougar.
Why WSU Might Win - Nope. Not happening. (Which is what I said the last two weeks, and we ended up having a shot. Don't fault me for being superstitious.)
Why Arizona Might Win - That run defense should make WSU one-dimensional, and when that happens, they can load the defensive backfield and try to force Tuel to make bad decisions. If he does, this could be an easy win for the Cats.
Recommended Local Activity - New CUB. I make a point to complain from time to time about the fact the new CUB is about one-thirds The Bookie, but it is still a remarkable facility. It's modern, reasonably well thought-out and has dining options that blow the previous version out of the water. The new CUB auditorium is spectacular; more movie theater than 1960s lecture hall, which is a very very good thing. Heading downstairs gets you the Book part of the Bookie, Dupus Boomers and a couple bonus food options. Losing the post office, game room and bowling alley were key mistakes on the part of the University, but let's face it: the new CUB is a heck of a lot more enjoyable on the whole than its predecessor.
Recommended Food - Locogrinz Hawaiian Plate Lunch - I'm no longer as personally invested in making sure Locogrinz stays in business as I was when I lived in Pullman (which reminds me: anyone know of anything like this on the West side?), but I'm still going to keep giving them publicity. Great Hawaiian dishes and still quite a lot cheaper than most restaurants in town. It's just as good in Pullman as it was in the original Moscow location, and if you park behind the restaurant you don't have to worry about parallel parking on Main Street. The Pulled Pig (a.k.a. Kalua Pork) is a must.
Special Edition Dissmores Gametime Snack of the Week - Before I skipped town, Dissmores revamped the Deli to include an Asian takeout section, and oh my Goodness it is incredible. Exactly what Americanized Chinese food should taste like. Panda Express and Safeway, you have been served.
Gametime Beer of the Week - It's Dad's Weekend, and this one's for you, Dad. Michelob Ultra. Since my father is 0.3% body fat and going to live to about 112 given his current fitness level, this is usually the beer you'll find populating his fridge. And it's still pretty good. Carbs aren't always a requirement.
Prediction - WSU 34, Arizona 33. I apologize in advance for jinxing it.
Remember, the only guarantee is that Reid Forrest is a better punter than your punter.
Enjoy the game, and as always, Go Cougs.