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Grading Cougar Football 2021, and looking ahead to 2022.

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Never early to talk about next season!

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 13 AdvoCare Kickoff - Washington State v Houston Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Greetings. What would normally be an action-packed weekend of Cougar Basketball turned dormant, as both the men and the women continue to fall prey to the COVID-19 virus. One would think that we’d be largely past this, but alas, we are not. As a result, the Washington State Cougars men missed out on two games in Oregon, and the women were unable to play host to the Oregon Ducks and Oregon State Beavers in Pullman.

Next up for the women - hopefully! - is an odd back-to-back set against the Washington Huskies, while the men play host to the mountain schools. In a perfect world, both games will be followed by some decent Modelo consumption.

So given the fact that active Cougar Athletics was largely cricket-filled over the weekend, why not talk about football? You’re well aware of the comings and goings, personnel-wise, that we’ve seen over the past couple weeks, but there have been a few folks who looked back at 2021 or ahead to 2022. What do they think? Let’s see!

First up is a brief look back at 2021, as USA Today’s Paul Myerberg graded the seasons for all FBS teams. While the Cougars seemed to exceed expectation in regards to many forecasts (yours truly included), it seems like Myerberg didn’t take everything surrounding the season into account. The 2021 Cougars garnered a B grade, which would seem about right given their 7-5 record. That grade was tied for 2nd place among Pac-12 teams with Oregon State and UCLA, behind only Utah’s A-.

I really wish Myerberg had included a sentence or two regarding each team’s grade, in addition to what he wrote about criteria at the top, because I would have given WSU a B+ or A- when taking into account the significant amount of turmoil the team endured, as well as the fact that they ended a seven-game rivalry game losing streak. Oh, and about the team that WSU poleaxed in the rivalry game. The Washington Huskies earned a big, fat F to accompany the eight Ls they took in 2021. Washington was the only Pac-12 team with a failing grade, a fun fact sure to appear on Jimmy Lake’s resumé.

So that’s 2021, but what about 2022? A couple folks cast their glance forward this week, attempting to take an early stab about how things will shake out next season. On both accounts, WSU is getting some uncommon doses of optimism.

First up is Pac-12 clown prince Jon Wilner, who peeled himself away from his candle-lit Justin Wilcox shrine underneath Memorial Stadium to cobble a 2022 outlook together. Wilner has the Cougars all the way up in second (!!!) place, clearly pinning that sunny projection on the right arm of transfer quarterback Cameron Ward.

Not only do we view the Cougars as the best bet for second place (based on current roster outlooks); we considered picking them to win the North. And why not? They finished second in ’21 despite so much turbulence and have enough returning playmakers to hold their ground in what appears to be a free-for-all division. Success depends heavily on the play of new quarterback Cam Ward, a transfer from Incarnate Word whose skills are well-suited for the so-called Coug Raid. If Ward plays to expectations and the defense doesn’t regress, neither will WSU.

You’ll notice that Jon didn’t name those “returning playmakers” because, uh, there are hardly any. He also either missed the bowl game or chose to forget it, because Ward doesn’t stand a chance behind the line as currently constructed. Either way, it’s nice to see WSU in the top half of Pac-12 North projections.

Then, through tear-filled eyes, Jon wrote the following and predicted Cal for fifth place.

Cal was 5-7 last season, with five losses by a touchdown or less. That suggests the difference between another mediocre season and a fulfillment of the Bears’ pre-pandemic promise likely will unfold on the margins: a red zone conversion here, a turnover there, and the avoidance of serious injury to a few key players.

Just think, if Cal had won all those games it lost, the season would have been a lot better!

Athlon’s Steve Lasson also has WSU in the top half of the division, as he slots them behind Oregon and Oregon State. While Lassan has WSU in 3rd place, at least he recognizes everything the Cougar lose on offense.

Can Dickert and a revamped staff keep the momentum going? Incarnate Word transfer Cameron Ward is a dynamic addition at quarterback, and the return of Renard Bell from injury bolsters a receiving corps losing Calvin Jackson Jr. and Travell Harris. Both starting tackles (Liam Ryan and Abraham Lucas) depart up front. Dickert’s defense is trending in the right direction. After giving up 6.7 yards per play in ’20, this unit cut that total to 5.5 last year. A couple of additions through the transfer portal could help ease the concern level after some key departures.

Lassan’s analysis seems to reflect reality more so than Wilner’s, because WSU really needs to add some offensive line capability - particularly at tackle - if Jake Dickert and Co. want to meet these projections in 2022. Can’t wait for spring!

Football

College football season grades from Georgia, Cincinnati and USC
USA TODAY Sports spent the 2021 college football season taking careful notes on the 130 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision. With the year complete, let's hand out some letter grades.

Early Pac-12 Football Predictions for 2022 - AthlonSports.com | Expert Predictions, Picks, and Previews
It’s never too early to think about predictions or rankings for the 2022 college football season. With that in mind, Athlon provides its very early power rankings for the Pac-12 for 2022.

Analysis: Jayden de Laura's short stint at Washington State left a legacy of electrifying highs and controversial lows | The Spokesman-Review
De Laura drew praise this season for deftly navigating the Cougars’ offense through a tumultuous season, during which three offensive-minded WSU coaches – including head coach Nick Rolovich – were fired for failing to comply with a state COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

NFL Cougars

The one Cougar alumnus in the NFL’s divisional round of the playoffs is still alive, as River Cracraft’s San Francisco 49ers went into Lambeau Field and canceled Aaron Rodgers’s season. While Cracraft didn’t log any offensive stats, he was on the field for 17 special teams stats and, if you watch the replay of the 49ers blocked punt/score that tied the game, River was mere inches away from being the guy who scooped the block and scored the only touchdown of the final three quarters. Cracraft will be on the road again next week, either in Tampa or L.A., with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.

This Week in Parenting

The 8th-grader and I had been practicing for his spelling bee over the last month or so, and the proverbial rubber met the road this week. And although my stomach would have been in knots during the proceedings, I was hoping to attend anyway. Welp.

Great job, everybody. Mrs. Kendall was able to sit in, and passed updates when she could. Out of about 20 spellers, the kiddo finished in third place, misspelling “coronation.” Dammit. Like father like son, I guess, as I also finished in 3rd place the last time I took part in a spelling competition (I want to say I was in fifth grade? Sixth?) Anyway, I missed “irritable”, not that I’ll take that one to my grave.

Things brightened up on the weekend, as the 10 year-old’s basketball team made its debut. In his first game since March of 2020, the kiddo scored the game’s first basket and helped the Mighty Wolverines to a resounding 15-10 victory. But while his basket and rebounds/assist helped, his choice of socks was clearly the difference between 1-0 and 0-1.

That’s right, my boy repped BVB and beer on his game socks. Tears of pride welled up throughout the proceedings.

Dortmund Fan Since Forever

Speaking of Die Schwarz-Gelben, this week brought mixed results. First, BVB gacked away its defense of the DFB Pokal, losing to a second-division team. Super duper. Saturday’s result was far sunnier, as the Black and Yellow got out to an early lead, messed around for an extended period, then finally put away the pesky men of Hoffenheim, 3-2.

BVB currently sits firmly in second place behind the team that wins the league every year.

Tweet(s) of the Week

I’m wedging in a new topic because the Washington Post’s Dan Lamonthe has looked straight into my soul over the past few days.

Dan wasn’t done, and we’re here for it, especially because of all the hurt feelings in the replies.

I think all of us can identify with Homer here!

Dan is just trolling now.

Keep ‘em coming, Mr. Lamonthe.

Non-Sports

On Being Lonely During the Pandemic - 5280
I was alone, and then I was really alone. Even so, as the pandemic drags on, I’m not sure I want to be around almost anyone.

The Dirty Work of Cleaning Online Reputations | The Walrus
For a fee, companies will tackle damaging search results. But is the new economy of digital makeovers making things worse?

Teeing Up with QAnon | The New Yorker
What would Groucho say? Would you rather belong to a club that had the proprietor of a porn shop as a member? Or Marjorie Taylor Greene?