Of course it's Rick Neuheisel.
The Washington State Cougars play their most important football game in years on Saturday. The game gives them the opportunity to improve to 4-1 on the season. A record which would put them in prime position for Bowl eligibility and a key stretch run with a potentially-healthy Jeff Tuel at the helm. It's the kind of game the Cougars need to win on the road if they want to prove they are back to respectability.
Standing in the way? A desperate UCLA program under the man who haunted our dreams as the coach of the Washington Huskies, Rick Neuheisel. Neuheisel's coaching job with the Bruins is in jeopardy, more so than any other leader of a Pac-12 team... and every win becomes precious as he tries to avoid unemployment. This, of course, is a strange position for him to be in. Neuheisel was a wildly successful coach at Colorado, then Washington, before losing his job in Montlake over participation in a NCAA tournament gambling pool. A legal battle ensued and Neuheisel was mildly exonerated after costing the taxpayers of Washington even more money in legal fees. And, as you know, our state is flush with cash so everyone lived happily ever after.
Neuheisel was Kryptonite to WSU teams during his tenure with the Huskies (and I guess kind of with UCLA as well). The Cougs would lose to him when they were underdogs. The Cougs would lose to him when they were favorites. At home. On the road. It didn't matter. Rick Neuheisel summoned the dark side of the force as he often does and found new, exciting and absolutely heart-wrenching ways to beat his cross-state rival. We won't go into detail.
Part of my excitement for this weekend's game stems from the fact that we get a chance to exonerate some of those demons on the way back to the upper tier of the standings. These opportunities are rare but you have to enjoy them. It's why we rushed the field after the 2004 Apple Cup. It's why I was personally standing up and jumping in Spokane Arena when WSU basketball beat Chris Hernandez and Stanford in 2005 (if you remember those times you'll know why. I was also probably the only one that excited since Spokane Arena crowds are... underwhelming).
When you get to bust up a streak, beat a conference foe or potentially get a head coach fired*, well, those are the moments you come to cherish in sports.
*-Don't worry, I can think of a couple million reasons Rick will be o.k. financially without a job.
Then again, Rick Neuheisel's job security is nowhere near as fun or exciting to talk about as a 4-1 Cougar football team.
Recommended Local Activity - The J. Paul Getty Museum. Classy.
Recommended Food - Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles - I like both of those things.
Gametime Snack of the Week - Great Harvest Bread - Much like my love of carbohydrates, Great Harvest has followed me wherever I've lived. As a little little kid in Great Falls, Montana, as an actual kid in Spokane and now in the South Sound. The Honey Whole Wheat is the best bread I've ever had. Ever.
Gametime Cheap Beer of the Week - Duff Beer. There have been rumors of the Simpsons being canceled (I prefer to think of it as "euthanized" given the last several years of the show), so we might as well celebrate America's number one fake beer.
Gametime Premium Beer of the Week - We'll give Redhook our once yearly nod with their Long Hammer IPA.
Gametime Song of the Week - Obligatory for CougCenter's first visit to L.A.
Red Hot Chili Peppers - Under The Bridge [Official Music Video] (via RHCPtv)
Prediction: UCLA 24, WSU 21
Much like the Arrested Development movie, I won't believe that the Cougar run defense is a reality until I see it with my own two eyes.
See you on the gamethread, and Go Cougs.