The Tailgater's Guide to Cougar Football is a weekly series, published every Thursday (and sometimes Friday mornings!), designed to prepare you for the upcoming week's matchup - both on and off the field.
First, let me open with a retraction and apology for last week. SMU's Stadium is named after Gerald J. Ford, not to be confused with our former President, Gerald R. Ford. Actually, I don't really want to apologize to Gerald J. Ford (the non-President), considering he sold his first bank for $80 million dollars and later sold another one to Citigroup for $6 billion and is probably worth more in net worth than the GDP of several Latin American countries. He's doing just fine. I do want to thank him, though, for not sending a secret ninja army to find me and kill me for the error. It was a regrettable mistake. Seriously, though, don't kill me. I like your banks very much, sir.
No. 20 Southern California Trojans (3-0, 0-0 Pacific-10) at Washington State Cougars (1-2, 0-0 Pacific-10)
Martin Stadium; Pullman, WA, 12 p.m. Pacific.
Television - FSN Northwest (Gess who's on color?)
Radio - Cougar Sports ISP Radio Network
USC 27, WSU 6 (2009)
USC -22 (Same amount SMU was favored by last week. Seriously.)
Why You Should Care
Every time I start to get really cynical about sports, something happens to reel me back in and make me remember why I love them so much in the first place. Last Friday I went to a Mariners game. I had tickets for a couple weeks to this particular game, and was keeping my fingers crossed for a Felix vs. Cliff Lee showdown (as the Rangers were in town). Ultimately I ended up with Felix, which is good enough for me, because, hey, Happy Felix Day. I expected a 1-0 Mariners loss, and my hatred of Jose Lopez to grow stronger. Instead I watched Felix pitch a hitless first inning. Then a second inning. Then a third. A fourth.
By the time the seventh inning rolled around, I couldn't believe what I had the fortune of seeing. From my seats behind home plate (hat-tip to my mother-in-law, who I'm now forever indebted to) I was watching the absolutely insane movement on his pitches. Vladimir Guerrero, a really really really good hitter, looked silly whiffing at a breaking ball. So did most of the other Rangers hitters at one point or another. Someone noted the next day a Felix changeup was clocked at 92 miles an hour. By the time the eighth inning arrived I really believed that I was going to see a no-hitter in person. It was a dream come true.
Of course, Nelson Cruz ruined the fun for everyone by hitting a home run to lead off the eighth, but it didn't matter. For seven innings I was living a dream, and I believed in something again. Everyone stood, cheered, and somehow the Mariners actually went on to win a game.
The Cougs could lose this weekend's game by eleventy thousand. But they might not. Like last year at the Coliseum, they might just hang in there. They may just even keep the game close. Lane Kiffin will keep going for two (which would be a good football strategy if I wasn't 98% sure it was grounded in arrogance), and USC may fail, lose momentum and lose something like a 26-24 ball game. Who knows.
As much as we all want to pretend we can predict the future, we can't. Anything can happen, and that's the best thing about sports. All we can do is put on your finest Coug-wear on Saturday and hope for the best. Let's set aside the squabbling about the best way to get this program out of the ditch, and hope that someone on this team becomes our Felix.
Key Matchup - The USC backfield versus the WSU defensive line. WSU has no chance - as we've learned time and time again the last two years - when they get run off the field. Marc Tyler and Allen Bradford have to get controlled by the Cougar front four if WSU has any shot of keeping their defense off the field for long periods of time.
Ronald Johnson, USC - The Cougs have had trouble in years past handling the big, quick receivers USC brings to the table. Johnson scares the living daylights out of me in this one. WSU doesn't have the shutdown corner capable of keeping RoJo in check for the full sixty minutes.
Marquess Wilson, WSU - We've talked a lot about hope on the Tailgater's Guide and Wilson exemplifies it for WSU. As a true freshman he may be our most prolific offensive weapon at this point. Certainly not a bad sign for the present or the future.
Why WSU Might Win - WSU can use USC's presumed overconfidence against them. Stop Kiffin's two-point conversions, step in passing lanes, strip the ball from ballcarriers, pick up the resulting turnovers and let the energy of the crowd fuel your offense.
Why USC Might Win - Superior talent, and an excellent rush offense playing against a horrific rush defense. How often have we noticed that discrepancy?
Recommended Local Activity - Palouse Ridge. I assume we're still in the four month period where it shouldn't snow in Pullman, so why not take in a round of golf? Golfweek magazine recently named PR the 3rd best campus golf course in the nation.
Recommended Food - Dupus Boomer's. This was a pleasant surprise amidst the opening of the new CUB. It's bar-and-grill type food that measures up with just about any other bar-and-grill restaurant in town, and it does it all less than a football field's length away from Martin Stadium. Burgers come recommended by me personally, but they also have Alligator bites, for what it's worth.
The More You Know - There was, once upon a time, a Pullman F.C. Naturally, it was a team formed by the Pullman Company and based in Chicago, but it apparently dominated something called the Peel Cup. Soccer!
Trader Joe's Gametime Snack of the Week presented by Trader Joe's - [author's note: we actually don't receive any money or favors from Trader Joe's. But I'm hoping that they will, in the form of sending me free stuff and/or coupons or gift certificates for me endorsing their food here on CougCenter. Trader Joe's reps, please e-mail us at email@example.com, subject line: free food for Grady]
Mochi. Ice cream delivered the way either God or the Japanese intended it: in a soft, not-too-sticky rice-based coating. Incredible.
Gametime Beer of the Week - Alaskan Amber. No messing around this week. We're just going for the gold.
Prediction - USC 35, WSU 14. Cover that spread!
Remember, the only guarantee is that Reid Forrest is a better punter than your punter.
Enjoy the game, and as always, Go Cougs.