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Cougar Football was the Pac-12 Champion...in point differential

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This is one stat that often doesn’t lie.

NCAA Football: Alamo Bowl-Iowa State vs Washington State Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning. For you early risers, I’m sorry this is late. As is almost always the case when football isn’t in season, I woke up this morning sans any clue as to what I’d write about. My entering argument is that I will always exhaust all options before spending anything but the minimum amount of time and space writing about WSU’s embarrassment of a men’s basketball coach and his really bad team.

So, what to do? Well, as I scoured the interwebs in search of something that would help me provide #content, I came upon an interesting angle of how to measure improvement and regression regarding college football teams. Ace CBS Sports college football writer (and fellow gambling degenerate) Tom Fornelli wrote a piece regarding point differential over the past two seasons, which included the following:

Still, sometimes wins and losses can be deceiving. Some teams can follow up a three-win season with a four-win season, and if you don’t look closely, you won’t realize that team took a major step forward. You just see the one extra win and don’t notice what else may have changed from year to year.

As you can probably guess, seeing as how they went from 9-4 to 11-2, WSU improved quite a bit in score differential. Matter of fact, their delta in score differential from 2017 to 2018 was the best in the entire conference. Improving from 9-4 to 11-2 doesn’t seem like a huge leap on the surface, does it? Well, I decided to take Tom’s idea and delve a little deeper into the numbers, in an attempt to tell more of the story regarding our beloved Washington State Cougars.

2017

  • Overall - WSU: 394, Opponents: 335 (+59) / Average Score - WSU: 30.3, Opponents: 25.8
  • Home - WSU: 257, Opponents: 122 (+135) / Average Score - WSU: 36.7, Opponents: 17.4
  • Road/Neutral - WSU: 137, Opponents: 213 (-76) / Average Score - WSU: 22.8, Opponents: 35.5
  • Conference Games - WSU: 254, Opponents: 242 (+12) / Average Score - WSU 28.2, Opponents 26.9

Broad Conclusions: Man, that’s a stark difference in margin of victory/defeat between home and road (+19/-13) which is pretty odd considering how experienced WSU was in 2017. It illustrates what many of us talked about in the aftermath of 2017: When the Cougs lost, they LOST, and every one of those faceplants was away from home.

2018

  • Overall - WSU: 488, Opponents: 303 (+185) / Average Score - WSU: 37.5, Opponents: 23.3
  • Home - WSU: 255, Opponents: 137 (+118) / Average Score - WSU: 36.4, Opponents: 19.6
  • Road/Neutral - WSU: 233, Opponents: 166 (+67) / Average Score - WSU: 38.8, Opponents: 27.7
  • Conference Games - WSU: 329, Opponents: 234 (+95!) / Average Score - WSU: 36.6, Opponents: 26

Broad conclusions: Without seeing these numbers, if you’d told me that WSU would average more points on the road than at home, I’d have thought you were crazy, especially considering that WSU hung 69 up in one home game. Two things struck me, one being the difference in conference games. The Cougs were only +12 in 2017, and improved to +95 in 2018.

Second, and more importantly in my opinion, WSU’s improved performance on the road (from -76 to +67) is one of the principle reasons they went from 9-4 to 11-2. For a team that entered the season with far more questions than answers, the difference in road performance is remarkable.

One other thing I discovered while looking through all these numbers is that 2018 was the first time since 2002 that WSU didn’t give up 40 or more points in at least one game. By contrast, it was only a decade ago that WSU gave up more than 50 points in half of its games. Seems we’ve come a long, long way. The more you know!

Football

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For the second consecutive year, the Pac-12 was left out of the College Football Playoff, and it hasn’t won a semifinal since the system’s inaugural season. Things aren’t looking much better in the near-term.

College football rankings: Florida, Texas, Wazzu make huge jumps, finishing in top 10 of CBS Sports 129 - CBSSports.com
Florida was bumped up a few spots to No. 7 after routing Michigan, LSU finished the year at No. 9 after beating UCF (which dropped four spots to No. 11), and Washington State rounds out the top 10 of the rankings after beating Iowa State.

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Basketball

You won’t believe this but WSU was embarrassed again Saturday night. My favorite part from this morning is the drastic difference in the two headlines. Take a guess as to which is more accurate.

Utah dominates Washington State for 88-70 victory | The Spokesman-Review
Utah (8-8, 2-2 Pac-12) snapped a two-game losing streak and beat the Cougars for the 17th consecutive time in Salt Lake City, dating back to 1946. C.J. Elleby scored 21 points and Isaiah Wade added 12 to lead Washington State. The Cougars (7-9, 0-3) have lost all eight games they have played outside Pullman this season.

Late Rally Not Enough for Cougars at Utah - Washington State University Athletics
Washington State opened a door for the decisive run by missing eight straight shots and committing three turnovers over a 4 1/2 minute stretch.

This Week in Parenting

The 10 year-old is participating in a Geography Bee next Friday, so we’ve been preparing on a nightly basis. I’ve mostly taken to Lou Holtz/Vince Lombardi’s preparation techniques, in that I’m putting him under immense pressure during practice in hopes that he will think the actual event is a breeze. This has resulted in more tears than any good parent should probably be culpable for, and part of me thinks his favorite movie will some day be “The Great Santini.” Ok, I’m not that bad.

I keep wanting to show him the Lombardi quote regarding the difference between having the will to win and having the will to prepare to win. I haven’t showed him that quote yet because the first thing he will say is, “Who is VInce Lombardi?” and I don’t want to cry in front of him.

Part of the preparation has been an effort to have him memorize the states and capitals, and every time we hit Mississippi, both he and his brother start singing “Mississippi Mustache.” I try to keep them focused, but it’s hard to hide the fact that I’m damn proud of them for loving that song.

Beer

One thing I’ve come to enjoy over here is Mikkeller’s mail order beer service. My credit card would argue otherwise. Another batch showed up this week, and it included a couple cans of Evil Twin’s Imperial Biscotti Break. It’s been far too long since I’ve tasted this exquisite offering. The funny thing is that Evil Twin’s founder is the brother of Mikkeller’s founder, and they harbor a strong dislike for eachother. I’m surprised Mikkeller sells Evil Twin selections on its website, but money talks, as always.

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From the City of Light, to the City of Angels, to the Kodak City, here are our top 10 destinations for beer travel in 2019.

Non-Sports

Hank Wong is the last surviving member of an elite group of Chinese-Canadian soldiers who, according to the government, never existed | The Star
Before the war, Canada, particularly in British Columbia, was largely inhospitable to those of Chinese heritage. They weren’t recognized as citizens and they weren’t allowed to vote.