Saturday, August 04, 2007

Washington State Preview

In 2006, the Washington State Cougars (6- 6 overall, 4- 5 PAC-10) were in pretty good shape heading into their final three games and then they lost three in a row. Winning one would have made them 7- 6 and probably bowl bound. Instead they finished tied for 5th in their conference.

The Cougars like to play a wide-open game with three wide and one back. QB Alex Brink (60.9% COMP 2,899 YDs, 19 TDs, 10 INTs) offers accuracy and senior leadership as he enters his fourth season as Washington State's starter. Senior slotback Michael Bumpus (60 REC, 558 YDs, 1 TD) has good hands, while junior flanker Brandon Gibson averaged 14.9 yards per catch. Sophomore RB Dwight Tardy (145 CAR, 667 YDs, 4 TDs) returns as the top rusher with other runners being questionable. Three tough and talented offensive linemen return, which means Brink should be well protected.

While the offense was scoring 24.6 PPG, the defense was allowing 23.1 PPG. The Cougars were able to stop the run but when teams took to the air they were terrible, allowing 243.1 YPG. The frontline is without star Mkristo Bruce but it offers two tough run-stopping seniors at the tackle spots in Ropati Potoitua and Aaron Johnson. Junior MLB Greg Trent returns as the club's leading tackler. He'll help two new starters break-in. One starter, FS Husain Abdullah, is back for the secondary. Everyone else is a question mark.

In the quarterback-rich PAC-10, WSU's secondary won't cut it. The Cougars have not been to a bowl since 2003 when they upset Texas 28- 20 in the Holiday Bowl. They won't be in the post-season this year either unless they are able to improve their defense.

The Consensus on WSU

It is pretty tough to find a friend, or foe who doesn't like, or admire Bill Doba. The media believes that if the 66 year old coach does not put together a winning season that he will be replaced at the end of the season. UTEP's Mike Price is a name that is already being talked about in WSU circles as a possible replacement which makes sense since he led to Cougars to two Rose Bowls before making the ill fated decision to take the Alabama position.

Most pre season polls rank the Cougar's near the bottom of the Pac Ten, but that isn't an unusual position for the Cougars who have time, and time again surprised their Pac Ten brethren by finishing much higher. Alex Brink to me is a little like the Mariner's Jeff Weaver. You have good Brink, and you have on bad Brink. You can't underestimate the value of senior leadership at QB in this league, and the Cougars will go as far as Alex will take them.

Washington in all probability knocked the Coug's out of a bowl last year in the finale. The victory was improbable because the week before the Huskies had eliminated themselves from bowl contention by losing to Stanford at home. Last years Stanford team was one of the worst this conference has ever seen in modern times. That victory gave Washington confidence going into the off season. I don't see the Coug's dancing on the "W" at Husky stadium this season, but you can never count this program out because of the stability of the coaching staff.

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