The Tailgater's Guide to Cougar Football is a weekly series, published every Thursday (except when it's on Friday), designed to prepare you for the upcoming week's matchup - both on and off the field.
(2-9, 1-7 (!) Pac-10)
Martin Stadium, Pullman, WA, 4 p.m. Pacific.
Television - Versus woooooooo
Radio - Cougar Sports ISP Radio Network
Washington 30, WSU 0 (2009)
Why It Matters
It's the Apple Cup.
Truth be told, this game has a lot more significance for the Husky program than it does for ours. One win and The Fightin' Lockers get to go to a Bowl game, and probably a decent one at that - since the Pac-10 Bowl participant prospects as a conference are dim at best. Add in the fact that Oregon may be playing for a National Championship - and Stanford may make another BCS Bowl - and boom! The Huskies could get bumped up to a high tier bowl by default. If that happens, Steve Sarkisian can sell progress to recruits. From 0-12 to 5 wins to a great Bowl game in just two easy years. However, if the Huskies lose, they'll be stagnant. From 0-12 to 5 wins to 5 wins and a disappointing winter. At that point, the nation's most needlessly restless fanbase may just put Coach Sark on the hot seat. Turmoil is bad for the future of their program.
But their turmoil is good for our program. So Go Cougs!
On the flip side, a lot of people are selling this as Wulff's last chance to make an impact - and possibly save his job - in 2010. I'm not so sure I buy that. There's a good chance - a very good chance - that Bill Moos has already made up his mind one way or another about the future of the Cougar coaching staff. We'll have to wait and see, but there's only one scenario that I think could significantly change the future with this game. Which is: if Moos has decided he'll cut Wulff loose at the end of the year, and the Cougs come out and steamroll the Dawgs 64-16, how can Moos justify firing Wulff? I don't think he can. Which makes things interesting. Although it's highly doubtful we'll see a final score like that.
However, I also would've given us a 0% chance of beating Oregon State by 17 points on the road. It's the improbability of sports that make them fun. And which made me commit to attending the Apple Cup well before the Cougs had made themselves relevant again.
On a personal note, this is a little bit of a homecoming for me. This is the first time I'll be staying in Pullman (I have passed through) since leaving for good last Spring, and it's simultaneously exciting and bittersweet. When all was said and done, I left Pullman with two degrees and seven years of my life spent in the Lentil Capital. That's a lot of time. I now live on the West Side, and while I imagine at some point I'll feel like that's my home, I still haven't mentally checked out of Pullman. I'm not sure what to make of that.
Regardless, for a weekend, I get to bathe in nostalgia and some bitterly cold temperatures. Yeah, that sounds like Pullman.
Key Matchup - Jeff Tuel versus the UW Secondary - Much will be made of Chris Polk and Jesse Callier versus the Cougars' normally horrific run defense. And that's fair. But I have a feeling a lot of the Cougars' emphasis in practice over the last three weeks had to do with defending the run. I think the UW backs will have success, but not as much as you'd think. The Huskies will put points on the board - largely on the prowess of the run game, so the key to the game becomes whether or not Jeff Tuel can match that.
Nick Holt said that the 'turnaround' the Husky defense has made in the last two games (versus Cal and UCLA) has had a lot to do with players like Desmond Trufant and Quinton Richardson stepping up in the secondary. Now whether or not it was them, or playing two of the worst quarterbacks in the conference, remains to be seen. And we'll get our answer Saturday. If Marquess Wilson and Jared Karstetter are open, Tuel will hit them. And the UW defensive line is just weak enough that I think Jeff may have time to throw (although that could be wishful thinking). With the improvement the WSU defense has made since the USC game, it's possible a couple big plays downfield could make the difference in this game for the Cougs.
Jake Locker, Washington - Polk and Callier should be the motor for the Husky offense, and so the wild card becomes Jake Locker. If he passes the ball efficiently, or is healthy enough to make an impact in the run game himself, the Cougs will be in trouble. He could singlehandedly make or break this game for the Dawgs. Which makes this compelling drama. Locker is a loss away from becoming the Huskies' Alex Brink: a good college quarterback who never really got his due because of the inability of his team to win games.
Jeff Tuel, WSU - See the key matchup. Additionally, Tuel has to be able to be a threat in the running game. That doesn't mean he has to run for 50 yards. It means he just has to be mobile enough that the Huskies respect the other aspect of his game. If UW has to spy on him with a linebacker it should open up more options for our offense.
Recommended Local Activity - The CougCenter Tailgate. Mark my words, this will set the standard in mild-to-moderately awkward internet fanbase get-togethers. I'll be there, probably around the time Jeff shows up (1 p.m.?) in my preferred gameday gear: the Jerome Harrison/Devard Darling #1 throwback jersey over my WSU hoodie. Just so your expectations are appropriately low: I can not guarantee that I'm witty in person, nor can I guarantee I'll be completely sober.
Recommended Food - Winger's - Classic Pullman/Moscow food. I'd visit the one in Tacoma, but I fear it won't feel the same. I'd go this weekend, but I expect all restaurants in the area to be on total overload.
Gametime Snack of the Week - Biscuits and Gravy - Cooking with CougCenter time!
--Regents Dining Center Biscuits and Gravy--
-One (1) Can Chef-Mate Country Sausage Gravy - It HAS to be this type. This can be found for around $8 at your local Cash & Carry. It gets you a TON of gravy; so freeze half of it. I also hear Sam's Club carries it.
-Biscuits of your choice
Heat gravy in a pan, apply liberally to biscuits.
After leaving the dorms I went to one of the new dining centers, and now they are charging about 5-6 dollars for two biscuits and gravy, which in an incredible ripoff. Because I'm sure the raw materials and labor have to be about 50 cents total for this dish. Due to this, I now consider Dining Services to be almost half as evil as its truly evil cousin, Parking Services.
Gametime Beer of the Week - Snow Cap. In honor of my pharmacy mentor from Pullman, the fact Dissmores carries it and the very good chance there will be snow on the ground this weekend. My only hope is the weather gets wintry enough for Snow Bowl II.
Prediction - Washington State 21, Washington 20. I hope to get one field/court rush in this weekend. If not tonight against K-State, I'm hoping for a last-second touchdown to lift us over the bad guys.
Remember, the only guarantee is that Reid Forrest is a better punter than your punter. I'm sad this is the last time I'll be able to say that.
Enjoy the game, and as always, Go Cougs.