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. 1 p.m. Pacific
Television - FSN
Radio - Cougar Sports ISP Radio Network
California 49, WSU 17
Why It Matters
I'm not one to buy into the whole idea of throwing the ASU game out the window, and saying the real start to the rest of the season is this Saturday at home against Cal. Once again some of the conditions - on paper - are favorable. Cal's a bad team on the road. They're starting backup QB Brock Mansion. WSU should be motivated after the 42-0 faceplant in Tempe. The Bears have played, at times, like a team that could challenge for the opportunity to get "Couged" in 2010.
I'm still not buying in. Sorry. I've given up hope before on this team, but often it's because every time it seems like I've lost faith in this team they come out with a solid performance. This time I'm not predicting doom and gloom out of superstition; I'm predicting it because I think it will happen. It's not that I don't care, or don't want the Cougs to win. It's just my brain tells me this is another letdown waiting to happen.
So why am I happy?
I'll be at work when the game is happening, but I will check the score on breaks. I will care about the outcome. This week I read a Seattle Times column by Lance Dickie lamenting the fair-weather nature of some Husky fans. In fairness, all fanbases have fair-weather fans. But there's a group of about 15 to 20 thousand Cougar fans who still show up for every game, regardless of how terrible it gets. There are thousands more of us who still follow the team religiously even in their darkest years. While most fanbases would have tossed Paul Wulff to the curb 12 months ago, we're actually having a rational conversation about keeping him around.
I'm happy because it's still a Cougar football Saturday. Even if it's a loss.
(Also: I'm happy because my mentor from my pharmacy intern days sent me Apple Cup tickets. Just one more month, people.)
Key Matchup - Shane Vereen versus any Cougar player willing to make a tackle
Shane Vereen, Cal - Easy answer.
Jeff Tuel, WSU - Last year's Cal game was something of a coming out party for the then-freshman quarterback. Let's see how he adjusts to a defense that I have to believe is building their gameplan to get after him.
Why WSU Might Win - I should just probably delete this portion of the guide.
Why Cal Might Win - I'm going to go with "intangibles". I fully expect FSN to make me a contract offer based on this unique and insightful analysis.
Recommended Local Activity - Rec Center - The SRC seems really awesome until you hit your third or fourth year at Wazzu and figure out the fee costs the same as any other gym membership. But don't let that dampen your spirits, because while not really awesome, the Rec center is still awesome. More features, programs, machines, weights and sport courts than your average gym, and it looks glorious. My trip out there sealed up my WSU recruitment, and I imagine I'm not the only one.
Lots of good memories at the Rec Center, most of which involve endorphins from exercise. One bittersweet memory - leaving the Rec Center TV area with the Cougs up 19-0 on the road at Notre Dame. I've mentally blocked what happened after I got back to Scott Hall.
Recommended Food - Swilly's. The one restaurant in Pullman I've never eaten at.
Not because I didn't want to, mind you, just because I was a poor student most of the time and the stars never aligned. Someday.
Gametime Snack of the Week - Can't be anything else than leftover Halloween candy. Although at this point we're nearing the untimely end of all our favorites, which leaves behind a whole ton of the candies you don't like as much, but will probably eat anyway.
Gametime Beer of the Week - Deschutes Twilight Ale. Our first 2009 repeat is a timely reminder to set back your clocks this weekend. It's also my reminder that despite the extra hour of sleep, I hate fall back. The sun should never, ever set at 4:30 p.m. Make Daylight Savings permanent! Morning people don't deserve special treatment!
Prediction - Cal 42, WSU 14
Remember, the only guarantee is that Reid Forrest is a better punter than your punter.
Enjoy the game, and as always, Go Cougs.