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It’s Cougar Football Game Week!

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The Cougs play Saturday. No, really.

NCAA Football: Arizona at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, and welcome at last to game week for the Washington State Cougars. As recently as just over a month ago, we didn’t even know whether we’d see Pac-12 football at all this year. But thanks largely to the Big Ten, Larry Scott and the Conference of coat-tailers are ready to lift the lid on 2020, if only for a few scant weeks. As we saw this week with the Big Ten, the season has zero margin for error due to the late start, so at the very least, we should just hope that the teams are able to complete what passes for a full season in 2020.

Then again, maybe the Cougs defeat the Oregon State Beavers for the seventh straight time on Saturday, followed by a cancellation of the rest of the season. If that happens, WSU can lay claim to a college football national title to go along with our basketball team’s national championship from March. Print those shirts!

But before we get to next Saturday’s game, we have a final chance to try and figure out what we’re going to see out of this WSU team in 2020. If you pretend to have any idea as to what this they’ll look like, you’re not fooling anyone but yourself. The 2020 Cougars are truly a mystery/riddle/enigma situation. Well, for the most part. I’m certain the interior of the defensive line will be a horror show. That, along with a few other training camp takeaways was the thrust of Theo Lawson’s camp wrapup.

Aside from the obvious quarterback mystery, Lawson focused a lot on the situation along both lines. One is good, one...isn’t. We’ll start with the good part, where guys like Abraham Lucas and Josh Watson return to anchor an offensive line that should be one of the conference’s best. Among other things, Lawson writes:

Consider the top three players, Ryan, Lucas and Watson, have played in 83 games and started in 77. Lucas earned All-Pac-12 Second Team honors last season and Watson was named Honorable Mention. Ryan struggled with penalties in his first season at left tackle, but seemed to correct his errors later in the season and has the potential to be an All-Pac-12-caliber lineman.

While I do think the offensive line will be a big help to whomever is behind center, I maintain a healthy amount of skepticism regarding Liam Ryan’s ability to play left tackle at a high level.

Over on the defensive line, things are much more perilous. Dallas Hobbs appears to be a decent player, but Lamonte McDougle’s loss stings quite a bit. Since defensive tackles aren’t exactly able to go all out for an entire game, that position requires a good amount of depth to stay effective. That’s where this ship could turn south in a big hurry.

Besides Hobbbs, we can assume WSU’s interior line options include Ahmir Crowder, Nathaniel James, Christian Mejia, Tyler Garay-Harris, Nicholas Sheetz, Amir Mujahid Jesus Echevarria and Antonio Pule.

In a word, yikes.

But let’s end Lawson’s sentiments on a high note, as it does appear that WSU will be more talented in the defensive backfield than last season. New additions and a new/old addition (Daniel Isom) may make these guys far more likely to have a positive impact than we saw from the DBs in 2019.

The Cougars certainly improved at cornerback during the offseason, signing Smith-Wade, a former Wyoming commit, in February and adding Jaylen Watson a few months later. The former USC signee was a two-time junior college All-American at Ventura College and has the ideal frame for a high-caliber Pac-12 defensive back, at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds. Watson and Smith-Wade both returned interceptions for touchdowns in the last scrimmage.

Given the talent upgrade and coordinator Jake Dickert’s new scheme, I’m confident that WSU can at least put a dent in the copious amounts of explosive plays they allowed last season. That alone should be enough to prevent us from averting our eyes as much as we had to in 2019.

Elsewhere, the folks at Athlon made some predictions for WSU’s 2020 season, and unfortunately they see it playing out the same way as most of the regional and national punditry. All three writers have the Cougs winning just one game, and none of them are the Apple Cup (stunning, I know). As we’re aware, the Cougs didn’t get any breaks from the schedule-makers.

The growing pains will be obvious, especially navigating a schedule that features USC as the lone crossover opponent as well as the usual divisional slate. There will be plenty of offensive fireworks but considering Rolovich is inheriting a defense that had trouble stopping anyone last season, I don’t think these Cougars will be able to manage enough points to pick up many wins.

Sounds about where my head is at as well. Then again, predicting what will happen during this truncated season is little more than a fool’s errand. Come along for the ride, won’t you?

Football

Five things we learned about Washington State's football team during preseason camp | The Spokesman-Review
“I think we’re putting a trust and faith in the offensive line unit really kind of leading the way,” Rolovich said. “I think they know that and I think they’re deserving of that responsibility.”

Ex-Washington State WR River Cracraft promoted to 49ers active roster ahead of Seahawks clash | The Spokesman-Review
Cracraft was one of two players elevated from the practice squad to the active roster, joining safety Johnathan Cyprien.

Washington State Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2020
Athlon asked a couple of editors and one college football contributor to share their realistic win/loss projection for Washington State in 2020.

Cougar Athletics

UNLEASH 2.0 - Cougars Strategic Plan in Year Two - Washington State University Athletics
WSU Athletics released the second year of its strategic plan, UNLEASH 2.0.

This Week in Parenting

It was report card and parent/teacher conference week, but the boys emerged largely unscathed. The 12 year-old’s grades were such that the worst of them was one measly A-. So of course my first thought was that we needed to make him determine his own punishment until that ghastly A- was rectified. Negotiations are ongoing.

As far as the younger boy, the conference with his teacher was quite enjoyable. We learned that he demonstrates many of the same characteristics at both home and school, such as the habit of doing the bare minimum to get by, along with the propensity to speed through tests so he can move on to something else he’d rather be doing. I’ll give him credit for his lack of shyness when it comes to his open disdain for school in general. At least he’s honest.

I introduced this little corner of the interwebs to the nine year-old’s foil Zoe last week, so Mrs. Kendall and I could not resist asking his teacher about their situation. She quickly told us that they’re basically like a married couple, which makes me want nothing more than to put microphones on them for a week to hear the interactions. Apparently things came to a head last week, and the boy told the teacher, “I’m done.” So they no longer sit in the same area, and as of now are not sending notes back and forth.

We’ve also had the boys taking part in baseball camp on Sundays, mostly to get them out of the house and in the hopes that what skills they have don’t atrophy. The 12 year-old was notified this week that he made the cut, and is a selectee for the travel team. Now, aside from the fact that we can’t actually travel, I’m not mentally equipped to be a “travel team” parent. If that’s your thing, more power to you, but it is definitely not mine. This is mostly because I don’t have any delusions of grandeur regarding future scholarships and pro contracts. And if I’m going to travel around Europe, the last thing I want to spend time on is a set of metal bleachers at a baseball diamond in Rotterdam. Given my own devices, I’d have him take part in all of the practices and none of the games, and if you think this makes me a bad parent, you’re right! So anyway his mom and I are proud of him.

Oh, and if you’re anti-social like me, this was the greatest Halloween in history.

Beer

Best beer I had this week: I’ve never been much for sours, but I don’t mind dabbling now and again. Part of my latest mail order was a bundle from Maryland’s Burley Oak Brewing. There were a couple sours in there, including Jelly Not Jam (Orange, Pineapple, Banana), and it was my kind of sour: tart but not ass-puckering. I could have consumed quite a few.

We Asked 12 Brewers: What’s the Best Pumpkin Beer You’ve Ever Had? | VinePair
Pumpkin beers are fall drinking staples. Which are the best in the patch? Find out the best pumpkin beer brands recommended by brewers here!

Non-Sports

Quite a time in America when trying to represent something besides the lunatic fringe ruins your life.

How Kevin Van Ausdal lost everything after running for Congress against QAnon and Marjorie Taylor Greene - The Washington Post
In Georgia, what happened when a ‘nice guy’ named Kevin Van Ausdal ran for Congress against a candidate known for her support of extremist conspiracy theories.