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WSU vs. Stanford: The Tailgater's Guide to Cougar Football

Stanford also leads the Pac-12 in smiles! :)
Stanford also leads the Pac-12 in smiles! :)

Someday, when you're watching Andrew Luck tear apart an opposing NFL defense, you can remember that his collegiate journey started in Pullman.

It's true. I remember being in the stands for the 2009 opener - it's the one the Cougars lost 39-13 - and taking solace in the fact that at least we got beat by a young quarterback with one heck of an arm. I was surprised at how savvy he was for a freshman. How he didn't make mistakes... even if he didn't always hit receivers right on the chest.

Actually, truth be told, I was just happy Luck beat out Tavita Pritchard for the starting quarterback job for Stanford. I would've hated to see the Cougars lose at home to the nephew of Jack Thompson. Nevertheless, Luck was impressive in his first career start, even if the numbers weren't particularly stunning: 11 of 23, 193 yards, 1 touchdown, no interceptions.

It's funny to think that the Cougars would kill to see that kind of line from Luck on Saturday. Last year Luck tossed 3 touchdowns (although on a surprisingly paltry 190 yards) in the Cardinal's 10-point win over WSU that was nowhere near as close as the final score indicates. Luck was shockingly adept at the position right from the start of his NCAA career; over the past three years he's turned into a complete pro's pro of a quarterback. He could have been the number one pick in the NFL draft last year, and he likely will be this year. I found it a little funny that Ryan Leaf's book came out the week we play Luck. Leaf was the last Pac-12 quarterback I saw in person that just seemed like an absolute can't-miss prospect at the next level.

Our society is obsessed with potential, and as such Andrew Luck's jersey for the NFL team he plays for will undoubtedly be the highest selling in the league the week it goes on the shelf. It doesn't matter if he plays like Peyton Manning. If he succeeds then Andrew Luck will be a self-fulfilling prophecy of the most exciting kind. He'll be an icon. He'll be in commercials for Snickers, McDonalds and numerous other products that could lead to what we in the medical field call "the diabeetus". If he's awful, oh, well then he just goes down as the biggest bust in the history of the league. No wonder he's sticking around for his final year in Palo Alto.

Don't worry, I'll talk a little bit about the Cougs, too. I've been critical at times of Paul Wulff... it's never been a questioning of wanting him to succeed - everyone does - it's just wondering if his skills honed at the FCS level could truly translate to the highest level of college football. It's strange, but even with the loss last week at UCLA I feel like they actually are. In fact part of me felt better about the future even after the gut-wrenching loss to the Bruins.

Yes, I hate that we squandered the opportunity to go to 4-1. But results-based analysis is something we try to shy away from here at CougCenter... not because results don't matter, but because it isn't the best indicator of future results. And what I saw last weekend bodes well for the future.

This may not sound great on the surface, but what I'm about to say is one of the best compliments I can give the Cougar offense. Ready? Our offense is really starting to look like Eastern Washington's. By that I don't mean that we look like an FCS offense, I mean that our offensive sets and the subsequent execution of them are starting to remind me a lot of Eastern's best teams (including last year's national championship squad). At their best, Wulff's EWU and WSU offenses operate well out of the shotgun. They can run or pass from the same formation, and the offensive line controls just enough of the trenches to make either option a success. In three and four wide receiver sets the Cougs now have enough speed to attack a variety of ways: through screens, out routes, draw plays, whatever. The problem with UCLA was that the Bruins took away anything deep and dared the Cougs to beat them with only an intermediate passing game. It worked. Barely. The Cougs were a catch away from winning, after all.

Sadly, I don't think we're going to see an improvement in the Cougar offense this week, even with Jeff Tuel available. Stanford is just too good. The moment WSU steps on the field they will be one-dimensional. They can try to run, but Stanford limits teams to just over two yards per attempt. Wulff will have to try to attack the Cardinal defense through the air... at which point all Stanford has to do is keep one or two men blanketing Marquess Wilson and they should get by just fine.

Recommended Local Activity - Before it gets too cold, might as well go for a run/walk/jog/bike/rollerblade on the Chipman Trail.

Recommended Food - There's really no shortage of great bar food in Pullman. Or maybe it's just that food is more enjoyable when you've been drinking. Either way I'm going to recommend the food at Rico's this week. Rico's is probably more of a professor's hangout on the surface, but I never felt out of place there as a student. Plus I'm always a fan of any bar that still welcomes in live jazz.

Gametime Snack of the Week - Handi-Snacks Crackers n' Cheez. Only the highest quality cheese ends with a z.

Gametime Cheap Beer of the Week - Hamm's. From the land of sky blue waters.

Gametime Premium Beer of the Week - Pyramid Apricot Ale - Being October and all, I was searching for a pumpkin ale at Winco the other night. After an exhaustive (about two minute) search, I gave up and went instead for a Pyramid Variety pack with the apricot ale. And it was phenomenal. I don't even like apricots.

Gametime Song of the Week - For homecoming:

(Tip of the hat to Craig, too, for getting me interested in this band via twitter)

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros - Home (via RoughTradeRecordsUK)

Prediction: Stanford 33, WSU 14

I'm 5-0 in predictions this year, but would gladly love my streak to end here (#humblebrag). I picked the Cougs to cover for no other reason than one of my friends putting money on WSU down in Vegas. Optimism abounds!

See you tomorrow night, and Go Cougs.