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2021 Previews and Predictions trickle in

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Lots of variance this week!

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NCAA Football: Washington State at Oregon State Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, and happy Sunday. By “Sunday” I mean it probably feels like many of you are residing on the surface of the sun about now. The good thing is that temps usually cool off considerably in July and August. Looking at a map of the gigantic heat dome over the Pacific Northwest, it appears that we’ve gone from red to really dark red to magenta. Where do they go after magenta? Do they just overlay a skull and crossbones? These are the important questions.

But enough of my Willard Scott (look him up, kids) impression for this week. How ‘bout some more content that looks forward to the upcoming Washington State Cougars football season? We’ll talk a bit about two wildly different 2021 outlooks, starting with the optimistic view, courtesy of ESPN’s data nerd extraordinaire, Bill Connelly. The article is of the ESPN+ variety, so I won’t include a lot of Bill’s analysis, but here are a few of the highlights:

  • He has WSU’s SP+ rank at 46th in the country, good for third-best (!!!) in the conference, behind only Washington (11th lol) and Oregon (fifth).
  • His percentages show WSU with four likely wins, three tossups (Cal at 50/50 which, good one, Bill), and five likely losses. He gives the Cougs a better percentage chance at beating Washington than Oregon (again, good one, Bill. You’re full of the jokes!)
  • Connelly also has ASU among the likely losses, but given that WSU doesn’t head to Tempe to face the Cheaty McCheaterfaces until late October, who the heck knows what ASU will look like by then?

One interesting addition was the charts of every program’s SP+ percentile since 1945, which I thought was pretty cool. I can’t imagine how much research (and meth) it takes to complete such an undertaking. If you have ESPN+, you can read the whole thing here.

On the other end of the spectrum is CBS Sports’ David Cobb, who took a stab at predicting all of the Pac-12’s win totals. While Bill C. sees a lot to like about the Cougs, Mr. Cobb...doesn’t. Matter of fact, he doesn’t think WSU will get past halfway to its betting total of six games, as he forecasts a three win season. As far as conference record, he projects the Cougs to beat only the Arizona Wildcats, meaning WSU will have its worst Pac-12 record since Mike Leach’s first season in Pullman. Sheesh.

FanDuel actually places WSU’s win total a bit higher at 6.5, but hoo boy is there a lot of juice (-150) on the under. To give you an idea of Cobb’s pessimism regarding WSU, he picks five of the 12 conference teams to fall short of their respective win totals, but only WSU and ASU are projected to come in a full three games short.

I did think this analysis was somewhat flawed:

After Leach’s falling out at Texas Tech following the 2009 season, successor Tommy Tuberville dipped from eight wins to five in his second year with the Red Raiders.

Anyone who paid attention to the Tuberville tenure at Texas Tech knows that he had almost zero interest in things like recruiting and offensive identity. I mean, he left for Cincinnati during a dinner with Red Raider recruits! Comparisons between Leach’s successor at Texas Tech and WSU are highly suspect.

But anyway, here’s hoping Bill C. and the data win out!

Football

2021 Pac-12 win totals, odds, picks: Predictions for each team as USC, Oregon, Washington vie for supremacy - CBSSports.com
The post-Mike Leach hangover is a real thing, and Washington State can expect a mean one this season after a 1-3 beginning to Nick Rolovich's tenure last year.

Piling on Larry Scott

The best college sports podcast anywhere took some more shots at the soon-to-be former Pac-12 commissioner this week, and it was hilarious. If you want to skip everything else (such as the bizarre way they determine Olympic swimmers) the Scott pillorying begins around the 40:15 mark. Then stay for the story about how a mouse plague in Australia sprung a bunch of prison inmates. I’m telling you, this podcast is the damn best.

SCOTUS's unanimous NCAA ruling, Pac-12's playoff tantrum & the Australian mouse plague continues
The guys close out, as they often do, in the animal world, reporting on the latest from the mouse plague in southeastern Australia.

Pac-12 continues to be annoyance as CFP looks to improve
The Pathetic-12 is so scared that its champion might get beat out by not just one, but two teams from non-major conferences that it wants to rig the rules so it gets in, even if it doesn’t deserve it.

This Week in Parenting

The 12 year-old managed to pull off a rare feat this week, raising my ire to to the nth degree. Due to the plague of the last 18 months, he’s been stuck at his current Boy Scout rank for a long time, and he finally had an in-person meeting last Thursday for the first time in months. I told him to make sure and be ready to talk to the Scout Master about finishing his last couple requirements in order to make the next rank.

So on Friday, I asked how Scouts went. “Great!” was the response. Of course, there was no more detail until I probed for it. I asked about the rank discussion I told him to have with the Scout Master, because his workbook contains all of the requirements that he has accomplished, and I wanted them to go over it together so we could arrange the final couple events. Here is a snippet of our exchange:

Did you show him your workbook?
No.
Why not?
Because I had nothing ready!

Dad’s top = blown into the stratosphere

All week I’d told him to prepare for this meeting, so I asked him what he was doing all day Thursday that prevented him from setting aside five minutes to prepare. I got “I did some chores and helped clean up” in return. I theorized that those events took maybe 45 minutes. “I had to get ready for baseball practice.” Ok, there’s another 10 minutes. The rest of the conversation was largely one-way and extremely prejudicial.

One of the hardest dilemmas as a parent comes with trying to find the ever-moving line between helping your kids achieve their goals and doing the work that they need to do. You always want them to succeed, because it means that you’ve succeeded as well. In this case, the 12 year-old’s goal is to earn the rank of Eagle Scout. But episodes like this make it seem like he likes the idea of being an Eagle Scout, and isn’t all that interested in doing the work it takes to get there. His mom and I have to straddle the line between setting him (and his brother) up for success, and actively participating in the pursuit of their goals.

I’ve told him more than once, and I told him again this week, that his mom and I can’t want this more than he does. If he’s going to reach his goal of Eagle Scout, he’s the one who has to put in the work. But man, it sure is hard sometimes to resist the urge to step in and cross the last “t” (proverbially) in order to help my boys succeed. I assume many of my fellow moms and dads feel the same way.

Luckily for me, that dilemma has solved itself in regards to their math homework, as there is no way in hell that I’m smart enough to help them with that anymore.

Twitter isn’t a total cess pool (just 99.9%)

Book Club

Finished up Scott Anderson’s The Quiet Americans a couple weeks ago, and man was it outstanding. The way Anderson weaves the narrative through the four central characters was compelling, and I plowed through it much quicker than my slow pace usually allows. So now it’s on to Lawrence in Arabia, also a Scott Anderson production, which I did not know when I ordered it! While the great T.E. Lawrence is the centerpiece, Anderson again weaves a story among four principle characters and how they shaped the modern Middle East. 100 pages in, and it is really, really good.

Non-Sports

Air Force AC-130 crew awarded for heroism in Afghanistan battle
“I always say gunships are a team sport," said Air Force Lt. Col. Christopher McCall. "Shadow 71 has talent from front-to-back."

What Happens When A Nation Goes To War, And A Small Few Bear The Costs : NPR
The troops who pulled three or four tours at war — they volunteered. Civilians don't have to think much more about it — it's not their kid over there.

The Maddening, Twisted Story of the Diplomat Who Became a Troll | Washingtonian (DC)
For more than a decade, the employees of a Washington think tank were traumatized by an unlikely harasser: a career Foreign Service officer.