Commentary: First five games? WSU will have better record than Huskies, Seahawks

FootballWashington State CougarsNFC WestJames CarpenterHoliday BowlAndrew Luck

We start by putting the Bud Light spotlight on October 9 – a day just six weeks away. That night, the Huskies, Cougs and Seahawks will have played a total of five games. And at that point, the team with the best record will be the Washington State Cougars.

OK, Aaron’s officially lost it. He’s crazy.

Put the guy in an asylum and lock him up for good. In fact, if the Cougs aren’t at least tied for the best record among the three teams after five games, I’ll do the entire show on October ninth in a strait jacket - a symbolic act to show that I’m nuts.

My prediction is based on three elements – motivation, experience and most of all – schedule.

Let’s start with the Seahawks. As of now, we’ve seen nothing from the first-string offense. No rhythm, no tempo, and when it comes to the right side of the offensiveline, no experience. Right tackle James Carpenter looks like a club bouncer who’s getting greased by defensive ends on every play. Experience and schedule will be a huge burden on this team.

I’m generally optimistic, so looking at the first five games, best-case scenario, the Hawks go 3-and-2, winning their divisional games and surprising either Pittsburgh, Atlanta or New York. Realistically, we’re looking at 2-and-3 – maybe even 1-and-4 – which won’t eliminate them from contending in the NFC West, but will place them last, compared to the Huskies and Cougs.

Conventional wisdom says the Huskies have the best chance to win this three-team sprint to mid-October. They’ve won four straight games, including the momentum of a Holiday Bowl win over Nebraska. For the first time in years, they’re believing big on Montlake, with a manageable schedule to start the year.

But I worry about any new quarterback, prone to mistakes, especially early on. Keith Price will impress, but he’ll also face growing pains along the way. All five games are winnable, but I see the Dawgs going 3-and-2 – at best, 4-and-1. Any home loss would be considered a huge blunder, but road games at Nebraska and Utah are as tough as they come. Win either of those, and the Dawgs will be sitting pretty – at least, come October ninth.

And then there’s the Cougs - a team that might never recover if they’re unable to take advantage of their early-season schedule.  And that’s where the formula works best: Motivation this season comes in the form of coach Paul Wulff, who will lose his job if they don’t reach a bowl game. The kids will either play their butts off and win – or treat him like the Dawgs did to Tyrone Willingham and fold. I prefer the former.

Experience comes in a quarterback in Jeff Tuel who might be the third-best Q-B in the conference, behind Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley. And he’s finally got more weapons to throw to – guys who actually run the 40 faster than I can.

And then there’s the schedule that can’t get much more cupcake than that. Home games against Idaho State and UNLV. A winnable road game at SDSU, and the Cougs could start the year 3-and-0. And although they won’t be favored at UCLA or Colorado, they’re two of the more winnable conference road games you can get.

As our colleague Ian Furness has said, if the Cougs don’t go at least 3-and-2 to start the year, Wulff is in danger of losing his job. So I’m banking on a 4-and-1 start for Washington State – giving them the best record among our three football teams, come October ninth.

Again, I’m not saying they’re the better team. And if i end up in a strait jacket come October ninth, I’ll blame them for “Coug”ing it.

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