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A Dumb Cougar fan’s Alamo Bowl preview

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If you want sound analysis, look elsewhere.

Utah v Washington State Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images

Good morning. I’ll give you a little inside baseball to start. You’re painfully aware that most of the year does not involve Cougar Football, which is the main reason many of you tune in to this here website. Part of the year that does not include football does involve the second-biggest sport (at least in terms of importance to the athletic department) - men’s basketball. As much as you try and avoid watching that terrible team led by its obscenely overpaid and incompetent coach, it’s even worse when you have to write about it, at least I’ve heard.

What does that have to do with this Sunday post? Well normally during the football offseason, I wake up without a clue as to what I’m going to write about (I’m sure you’re stunned to learn this), and today marks the onset of that period. I sit in front of this here MacBook on a Sunday afternoon, largely bereft of ideas. On the other hand, it’s one of my last chances to write about on-the-field football for a long time, so that’s what I’ll do.

The Cougs will play one last time in 2018 next Friday night, when they face the Iowa State Cyclones in San Antonio (aka San Antone if you’re a fan of George Strait’s greatest song, Amarillo By Morning). As a life-long Cougar fan who has come to usually expect the worst every time the team takes the field, Iowa State may as well be the 2001 Miami Hurricanes. While I objectively know that WSU is the better team, there are myraid reasons why I think the underdog Cyclones will walk away winners.

To start, nearly every prediction I’ve heard and read leans toward the Cyclones. You’d think that a 10-2 team ranked in Top 15 would be a popular pick to beat a fringe Top 25 team that damn near lost to Drake a few weeks ago. You would be wrong. It’s like WSU’s loss to Washington completely erased a season full of credibility they’d built. It seems simultaneously bizarre and vintage WSU.

Iowa State has a really good trio of playmakers in quarterback Brock Purdy, receiver Hakeem Butler and running back David Montgomery. With five days to go until the game, they may as well Aikman, Smith and Irvin. I realize that they aren’t nearly that good, but the WSU defense will have its hands full Friday night. Iowa State is coached by a guy, Matt Campbell, who should be in line for a big job sooner rather than later.

As many of you are well aware, motivation can play a huge part in bowl game results. While Washington State feels it got slighted by falling to the Alamo Bowl despite a 10-2 season, Iowa State is playing the highest profile bowl in program history. Which team do you think is more fired up to be there?

Then there’s Mike Leach’s bowl game track record at WSU. In 2013, he managed to lose a game (while shirking the blame) in which quarterback Connor Halliday threw six touchdowns and the Cougs scored 45 points. Since then, WSU has averaged 16 points per bowl game, and has scored all of 29 points in the last 10 quarters. I probably don’t have to tell you that’s not a recipe for victory. Leach has coached in one other Alamo Bowl, a loss to Iowa in which his team that averaged 32 points-per-game against FBS competition scored half that in a 19-16 loss.

So how can WSU win? For one thing, they need to take away either Butler or Montgomery. While Butler is the type of receiver who can give WSU fits (he’s 6’6”), I have faith that Tracy Claeys can draw up a scheme to minimize Montgomery’s impact. If the defense can pressure Purdy and make Iowa State one-dimensional, they stand a good chance to win.

Defensively, Iowa State ranks is 31st nationally in S&P and 23rd in FEI (WSU is 50th and 84th, respectively). WSU has faced three teams above Iowa State in those rankings (Utah, Washington, Cal) and didn’t break 20 points in two of those three games. That...does not bode well. All of this means the Cougs need to bring their “A” game offensively. Anything less and they’ll probably be embarrassed. They need to spread the ball among their multitude of weapons score in one of their first two possessions. If they don’t, they risk getting bogged down like they have in the last 10 quarters of bowl games.

Can the Cougs win? Of course they can, they’re the better team. Does that mean a lot when it comes to bowl games? Unfortunately, no. In the end, I’m placing all of my faith in WSU’s found money-turned MVP, also known as Gardner Minshew II. I want to believe that Minshew will have the team ready to play in a way that neither Luke Falk nor Tyler Hilinski were able to in the last couple years. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself.

And thus endeth the football portion of my rambling. Enjoy your Sunday.

Football

Apparently the Cougar football players like Fortnight. I’ve never played it, and wouldn’t have the first clue as to what it entails.

School. Football. Fortnite. One video game has infiltrated Washington State’s locker room … and isn’t going away anytime soon | The Spokesman-Review
While some caution against too much Fortnite consumption, this particular group of student-athletes sees the benefits.

Alamo Bowl Iowa State vs. Washington State Prediction Preview
Okay, Washington State. Go all Washington State and be fun.

College Football Bowl Betting Guide - Expert Picks From CBS Sports - CBSSports.com
The Alamo Bowl gets nuts on a regular basis, and this matchup between Washington State and Iowa State could be the latest edition of Alamo insanity.

Alamo Bowl: Former Washington State, Iowa State coach Jim Walden says his liver couldn’t handle a San Antonio trip
Jim Walden coached both Iowa State and Washington State. He offers insights on the game, both schools and key performers before the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio.

College football 2019 predictions: Players, coaches, trends | SI.com
Late kickoff times are also a stumbling block for the country’s farthest-west conference, which has to work harder than any other to stoke a national fan base.

Basketball

I don’t care that the Cougars lost. Thanks to Ernie Kent, I haven’t cared about the dozens of losses in a long time. Don’t @ me.

Isaiah Pineiro scores 30; San Diego holds off Washington St., 82-75 | The Spokesman-Review
The Cougars shot 50 percent from the field and 47 percent from 3-point range, but committed 16 turnovers.

This Week in Parenting

When I was in the U.S. about six weeks ago I wanted to get some wireless earphones for my sojourns to the gym, so I went to Best Buy and got a new set. They look pretty goofy, but I’m old and don’t care, and they sound really good. A few weeks ago I was fiddling with the different insert sizes, and set them down on our ottoman. The next day, I went to grab them out of my gym bag, and they weren’t there. No biggie, as I had a backup set of wired earphones. (when you’re as forgetful as I am, you always stash a backup pair in the gym bag).

When I got home, the first order of business was to locate the primary set. After turning the entire house and car upside down, they were nowhere to be found. I asked the boys if they had any idea, and got nothing but shoulder shrugs. They’re both old enough that they don’t randomly steal things and stash them, so I had no reason to suspect they were culpable. A few days ago, I gave up and bought another pair. I made sure to ask about the return policy at the base exchange, and decided to keep them in the wrapping until the last day I could return them, in hopes that the original pair would turn up.

In their little play area at home, my boys have a small tub where they keep their Nerf bullets that accompany an arsenal of weapons that would have made Randy Weaver blush. When we got home from Belgium Wednesday afternoon, I had to go to work until about 8pm. When I got back to the car, my wife had sent a picture of my two boys, holding the missing earphones.

Turns out when they were tasked to pick up the stray bullets for the millionth time, they had unwittingly thrown the earphone case in along with them. So I was able to return the other set, and all is well. Luckily for them, the little bastards are relatively good kids, because if not, they’d have been driven back up to Belgium to sleep in the Bois Jacques Foxholes we explored this week.

Beer

Best beer I had this week: This will be a “best beer” and “life in Europe” combo. Try to contain your excitement. When we moved to Germany late last summer, we were rapidly approaching my WWII-loving oldest son’s birthday. About two days prior, we realized that we hadn’t gotten him anything. We’d been talking about going to Bastogne, Belgium for one of our first European adventures, so we decided to kill two birds with one stone and tell him we were taking him there for his birthday. If you couldn’t tell by now, we’re super awesome parents.

The time came to head up there on Monday. I like to do a fair amount of research into unfamiliar places, and did so again with Bastogne. Anyone who is even nominally familiar with World War II knows Bastogne is famous primarily for being the epicenter of the Battle of the Bulge in late 1944. When the Germans surrounded the city, they sent a party to American headquarters, offering a chance to surrender before facing annihilation. In a moment that would live in American military lore, U.S. Army commander General Anthony McAuliffe responded with one word, “Nuts.”

In honor of that moment, Bastogne has a restaurant called Le Nuts. When we were there Monday night, I saw an older man outside who had one of those hats you see veterans wear, and I thought it would be neat to take the boys outside to meet him. He introduced himself as Vincent Speranza, and he’d been one of those soldiers surrounded in Bastogne. He was incredibly nice, and wanted to take a pic with the boys.

My favorite part about that photo is Mr. Speranza’s cigar, and there isn’t a close second.

Another part of that story involves a soldier who, when asked by a wounded buddy to go looking for water in Bastogne, was unable to find any. He did stumble upon a beer tap, however, and filled his helmet. He took the helmet full of beer back to his friend, and the legend of Airborne Beer came to be. We enjoyed our dinner, replete with a couple rounds of Airborne Beer and headed back to the hotel. When we got back, I decided to put Mr. Speranza’s name into the old Google machine. It was then that I learned he was the guy behind the story of Airborne Beer. Turns out he was in town for the anniversary celebration of the battle, and he left the next day. Amazing.

Mr. Speranza is well into his 90s, but you’d never know it if you spoke to him. This was clearly one of those moments that I (and hopefully my two boys) will remember forever. On a related note, if you are interested in such things, you should absolutely visit Bastogne. It’s a lovely little town with loads of history, good food and great beer. So anyway, the best beer I had this week was Airborne Beer. It tasted great, and I’m willing to bet that you will never ever learn a better backstory regarding how any beer came to be.

Regarding the linked story, I recall seeing this Kirkland variety pack at Costco near Tampa. I asked my fellow CougCenter authors whether I should buy it, and the consensus was “absolutely not.” I trust these guys with my life.

Taste-testing Costco’s $20 “craft brewed” beer variety pack
“Craft brewed” is emblazoned boldly on the cardboard exterior, a reference to four classic beer styles that led the American craft beer movement beginning in the 1980s.

Sports (ish)

This story is sensational and you should absolutely read it.

My Dad's Friendship With Charles Barkley | Only A Game
Shirley Wang's father, Lin, was on a business trip when he ran into NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley. It was the beginning of a friendship.

Non-Sports

“Looking for Elvis”: An Oral History of Saddam Hussein's Capture
In early 2003, long on confidence and short on foresight, the United States invaded Iraq and sent its despot into hiding. Fifteen years ago this month, we found him. (And that’s when our real challenges began.) Here, the harrowing story of Saddam Hussein’s capture, as told by those who pulled it off.