This is the sixth of a series of posts sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 11.
Craig (Dancing Football): Well, back to reality for us fellas! At least all this talk of Rose Bowls and a great players can give us some shred of hope that things will not always be like they have been.
EA Sports wants us to tell you our expectations for this season. I'm not really going to get into wins and losses, because that can get pretty bleak. I'll tell you what I expect from our players and coaching staff on the field, and I hope the added bonus of a few surprise victories (or close games for that matter) will come along if those expectations are met.
First, from the coaches, it is time to see what they've got. They were dealt a pretty sorry hand talent-wise initially, but they've got most of their guys on the field now. Granted, those guys are still younger and smaller than most teams around them, but I expect the playbook to open up a bit more on both sides of the ball.
From the players, I want to see some muscles! We were easily the scrawniest team on the block last season (thanks to playing a boatload of underclassmen), but we'll have a lot of returners who should have been spending the offseason in the weight room. Hopefully with that added strength comes some increased durability. This team was the most injured in the country last year, and we were definitely the BCS team that could least afford it. Any hope of this team making strides forward in the win column will hinge greatly on keeping the starters on the field.
That's all I've got for now. I'll definitely have more as the season draws closer. What say ye, my co-author brethren? What do you expect from Wulff and company this season?
My expectations are essentially the same as they were last year. Win three or four games, and it's a huge step in the right direction. Win one or zero games, and we're in trouble.
At this point, I see us beating Montana State and hoping for some kind of magic to carry us through another game or two. Of course, two of our other potentially winnable games - SMU and Arizona State - are both on the road. Our Pac-10 home slate is brutal: SC, Oregon, Arizona, Cal and Washington. If we can arrive at the Apple Cup reasonably healthy we may have another "throw out the records" type game. But I wouldn't bet the farm on it.
Ultimately, I care less about wins and losses and more about competitiveness. I'll take a heartbreaking loss or two over the last two year's 347-0 at halftime games (at least that's what they felt like). A few of those performances, especially against the tough competition coming to Martin Stadium, and Paul Wulff will be shown the door. That would be a shame, since he's one of our own and has overcome a truckload of adversity in his personal life. But if there isn't a heartbeat left in this team by season's end it's probably best for both of us to go our different ways.
Brian: I wish we ended on a high note with the memorable moments post.
My expectations don't come in the form of wins and losses. We can't accurately predict what will happen over the course of the season, so I find it hard to guess how many games the Cougs will win. If we don't beat Montana State, however, I'll be angrily calling for some changes. The rest of the schedule yields games that aren't in WSU's favor at all. The conference is loaded again and the Cougs find themselves trying to rebuild at the wrong time. SMU may be winnable, but I also remember it took a ridiculous performance (in a bad way) by their quarterback for WSU to win that game last year. The Mustangs also went on to a bowl game, which they won. It's just tough to pencil in wins right now.
What I do expect is improvement. The defense is much closer to Pac-10 caliber this year and should limit the 66-3 blowouts. The defensive line -- while a bit thin -- is very talented, the secondary is young and fast, and the linebacking corps has potential to be very good. It's hard to see this team getting taken to the woodshed by opposing offenses every week.
On the offensive end, I also expect improvement, mostly due to the low bar last season's unit set. Jeff Tuel is locked in as the quarterback, solving one problem we had early in the 2009 campaign. Unfortunately for Tuel, his weapons in the skill positions are lacking. The receiver corp had just 4 scholarship players this Spring and will need to bolstered by some of the incoming class. The loss of James Montgomery hurt the running back stable, but hopefully a triumphant return is in order. If not, we're looking at running back by committee. Finally, the offensive line is still working on jelling, something I hope happens for the sake of Tuel. Again, the line is thin in depth, so injuries could become a problem.
I expect to see more than one win and games that aren't out of hand by halftime this year. We're still rebuilding, but it's time to see some signs of life. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going back to reminiscing about the good old days.
Jeff: Honestly, you guys pretty much covered all of my thoughts. What it boils down to for me is this: Does this team pass the eye test this year? Do they actually look like a Pac-10 team for the first time in three years? Because that's been the most disheartening thing about the past two seasons. It isn't just that we were bad, or historically bad; we simply looked like we didn't even belong in the same conference. We haven't seen that in the Pac-10 since the OSU "glory days" of Jerry Pettibone, and we all remember what a laughingstock the Beavers were 15 years ago.
That's an embarrassing place to be.
I'll also hold the same measuring stick up to the coaches. I made no secret of the fact that I thought changes needed to be made among the assistants, yet the only change made was in replacing the offensive line coach. We all acknowledge that injuries were an obstacle for the team, and might very well have affected what the coaches were able to do. But there were a lot of things scheme-wise that just -- again -- didn't pass the eye test. I want to see some creativity; I want to see our boys have a fighting chance once or twice this year on savvy game planning alone. In the third year of adjusting to big-time college football, I don't think that's an unreasonable expectation.
What say YOU, readers? Your expectations?
Also, now seems like a good time to emphasize the fan confidence poll. How are you feeling about your Cougs right now?