Remember how fun and exciting it was when Oregon took on a two-touchdown underdog in a hostile environment last week? [You betcha!—Ed.] Well it's back to the five-touchdown dogs—or should I say "Cougs"—this weekend with former high profile football coach Mike Leach's Cougars coming to town.
Before you scoff, I'll remind you that these aren't the same Cougs you've seen the past few seasons. They're not your daddy's Cougs either. They're more like your slightly older brother's Cougs. Competent in some areas, strong in others, but thin all around and prone to self-destruction. This is a return to the Wazzu of the mid-Aughts, who popularized the euphemism "Couging it" for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Coincidentally, those were the last Washington State teams to beat Oregon.
If that doesn't get your attention, the Oregon athletic department decided to use the game to raise awareness and funding for breast cancer. The Ducks' traditional black uniforms will be joined by hot pink helmets, shoes, socks and gloves which will be auctioned off after the game to benefit the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. I'm sure, you like me, might be sick of the NFL's annual October Pink Out, but this is less of a transparent attempt to make money and win over female fans. Kay Yow is not tied to Susan G. Komen. And I sincerely hope that, unlike the NFL, more than 8 percent of the money raised by this event goes to breast cancer research.
On an unrelated note, the thought of Butch T. Coug coming to Autzen on Saturday reminds me of a different cougar's last trip to the stadium...
Here are the keys to the game:
Secondary play — The Ducks secondary play has been lights out over the first game of the season—Washington coach Steve Sarkisian called Ifo Ekpre-Olomu "probably the best defensive player we've seen all season" last week—but they're facing the third-leading passer in all of college football in WSU's Connor Halliday. The Coug's gunslinger also leads the country in interceptions thrown. Halliday throws a very catch-able ball.
Super Mariota's Heisman Campaign — While the game is too late for most sportswriters and Heisman voters to be watching, it is important for Mariota to continue improving his incomparable stat-line against the nation's 68th-ranked defense.
FOCUS — Let's face it: This is a game sandwiched between a big rivalry game and what could well be the Pac-12 Game of the Year against the currently undefeated UCLA Bruins next weekend. And it's the Cougs. If you remember last year's Oregon-Wazzu game, you'll remember that Oregon appeared to forget how to play football in the second quarter. At 4-3, Washington State is not a bad team. The Ducks haven't been caught looking ahead since the 2011 loss to USC but this could be a scary... eh, who am I kidding?
A look around the league
Charlston Southern vs Colorado (11 am PST) — Just when you think the conference made it out of the woods with only one loss to a FCS school (thanks, Beavs), flooding forces woeful Colorado to schedule an undefeated, top 25 FCS team.
#9 UCLA vs #13 Stanford (12:30 pm PST, ABC) — The biggest conference clash pits the team that just lost to Utah last week against the team that barely beat Utah two weeks ago.
#20 Washington vs Arizona State (3 pm PST, Pac-12 Network) — The free-falling Huskies take on an Sun Devils team alternating weeks in and out of the top 25 polls.
Utah vs Arizona (7 pm PST, Pac-12 Network) — The Utah Utes, fresh off their historic upset of #5 Stanford, leave their comfortable mountain home to take on Rich Rodriguez' Mildcats.
Oregon State vs California (7:30 pm PST, ESPN2) — The Beavers, riding a five-winning streak after giving the conference its most embarrassing loss of non-conference play, take on the Pac-12's most embarrassing team in Berkeley.
For those of you wondering what happened to the game recap following last week's Oregon-Washington game, there were some technical difficulties.