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.
Washington St. Cougars (1-7, 0-5 Pac-10) at Arizona St. Sun Devils (3-4, 1-3 Pac-10)
Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, AZ. 4 p.m. Pacific
Television - None [ed. note: DIE IN A FIRE CURRENT TV CONTRACT]
Radio - Cougar Sports ISP Radio Network
Arizona State 27, WSU 14 (2009)
Arizona State -21
Why It Matters
So here we are. This is the four game stretch we've been waiting for all season: ASU, Cal, Oregon State and Washington. All four teams are talented but each have their own unique - and occasionally fatal - flaws. We've reached the point in the year where being competitive is all fine and dandy, but a win is what the Cougars are really chasing.
This game is particularly intriguing. The Fightin' Ericksons have only won one conference game all season and have a turnover-prone quarterback at the helm. As bad as the WSU defense has been statistically (and good God they have been awful), they have been able to take advantage of turnovers in their last two wins (Montana State earlier this year and SMU last fall).
Ultimately, it's a game of execution and the team that makes the least amount of mistakes (read: turnovers) should come out on top. For WSU, I have a feeling it will take turnovers and an inspired performance by the offense to spoil the Sun Devils' Homecoming.
Key Matchup - The WSU Defensive Line versus the ASU Offensive Line
The trenches are where the Cougar defense could find a way to be successful in this game. Craig detailed earlier this week that ASU has allowed 19 sacks so far on the season. A porous line could allow Brandon Rankin and company to break through and put pressure on the recently concussed Steven Threet. And pressure could result in sacks, bad passes and turnovers. Breaking through the line can also help WSU stuff the run. This is going back to square one: we thought WSU's defense would be centered on the strength of the defense line at the start of the year. So far, the unit has been more of a weakness, and this is their first real opportunity at redemption.
Kevin Kooyman, WSU - It's time for the fifth-year senior to have a breakout game in 2010, and this one feels right. As I said earlier, I think the D-line can really jump-start the entire team in this game.
Deantre Lewis, ASU - So, let's say WSU puts the clamps on Threet and forces a couple interceptions. Then what? If I'm Dennis Erickson, I do the thing every opponent in the Paul Wulff era has done against the Cougs (except the 2008 Huskies, of course, which is hilarious). That thing is run the ball down our throats. Lewis is quick, versatile and exactly the kind of back that has given WSU fits in the past. Can we finally shut a running game down?
Why WSU Might Win - I'd say the Cougs have to go at least +2 in turnover margin AND have a signature performance by Jeff Tuel and the receivers. Remember, last year the Cougs forced six ASU turnovers and still lost at home. By 13.
Why ASU Might Win - The talent is on their side, and if Vontaze Burfict breaks through and crushes Jeff Tuel a few times, this could be the laugher that Vegas is predicting.
Recommended Local Activity and Food - Four Peaks Brewery. I'll be stopping here for sure if I can ever make the road trip to Tempe. Good food, but even better beer. They offer eight regular beers in addition to whatever the seasonal brew of the moment is.
Gametime Snack of the Week - Pirate's Booty - It's best to find a big bag of this at Costco. Be ye warned: this is not very filling food. Something I learned on a camping trip this last summer when I tried to eat a ton of it as breakfast.
Gametime Beer of the Week - Redhook ESB - I wanted to give some love to Northwest beer, and Redhook just seemed like a perfect fit for this week's beer selection. I'm a sucker for amber ales too, which is why I'm going with the ESB.
Prediction - Until an hour ago, I was going to guarantee an ASU win. The Cougs are better, yes, but they're going up against a Sun Devil team with their backs against the wall in terms of their postseason chances. And it's homecoming in Tempe.
Then I learned that the game wouldn't be on TV. Those of you who have followed Cougar sports closely over the last few years know that when WSU is in the dark, good things happen.
The revolution will not be televised. Actually, that's not entirely true: the revolution will be televised on FCS-Pacific, but only on tape delay after they finish a replay of the San Diego State-UTEP Ultimate Frisbee match from last Wednesday.
WSU 30, Arizona State 27 (OT)
Remember, the only guarantee is that Reid Forrest is a better punter than your punter.
Enjoy the game, and as always, Go Cougs.