John: Do you expect Alex Brink to bounce back this week after throwing six interceptions against Oregon State?
Sedihawk: In a non-blind-homerism sort of analysis, yes, I think Brink does bounce back this week.
Why? Well, there's a number of reasons:
1) Oregon State's defense is really something. Their speed at linebacker is ideal for stopping the quick, short passing game that WSU thrives on. And the Beaver D's ability to defend the run is off the charts. It's well-documented that when Alex Brink has a running game that goes over 100 net yards, he's 8-3 since the beginning of 2006. But when the running game is under 100 yards? Try 2-10 over that same stretch. When you combine those numbers with the WSU offense losing senior TE Jed Collins to injury, who not only is an excellent pass-catcher with 50+ balls this year but also a vital blocker as an H-back in the running game? It was a disaster waiting to happen. Once OSU was up by a couple of scores, with no running game to speak of and the pressure of trying to play for bowl eligibility all hitting a t the same time? Forget it. The whole thing collapsed in an ugly, rainy, crimson-n-gray heap. At least nobody was there to see it as 80% of the campus was already home for Thanksgiving by the time kickoff arrived.
2) So, that said, UW's defense has been, well, spotty at best this year, if not downright bad in some games. To put it another way, this isn't exactly a top-shelf defense that's full of speed and power. Even Captain Husky (the old man in the purple Superman outfit?) will admit that. Now we do know the Husky D has in fact played better against Stanford, OSU and now Cal, so they have improved. But they still aren't at that elite level. And Brink has done well against defenses that don't have top-shelf speed to defend the short passing game.
3) Finally, hard as it is to believe, but Brink has rarely laid an egg in consecutive games. He's been a big time bounce-back guy his whole career. He always seems to bury his bad performances as fast as possible. Last year for example, he was awful against Cal and was actually pulled in the 3rd quarter for a short time as the Cougars lost ugly, 21-3. Yet the next week, he was outstanding against Oregon, playing the most efficient game in his career while leading them to an upset victory over the hated quacks. His performance was good enough for Pac-10 POW honors.
So, bottom-line man (in "Softy" Mahler-speak): He's a senior in his last game. The pressure of trying to win to get to a bowl is gone, exactly like it was in 2004 and 2005. He's not a kid that's really ever lacked confidence, so I think he'll put this game behind him and come out ready to play.
Brinkhater: Can Brink bounce back? The answer is "hell yes." And that's the problem, the kid ALWAYS bounces back. To compound matters, he never gets hurt, and even worse, NEVER graduates. I keep waking up in the middle of the night thinking that someone is going to bequeath upon him a Bob Garman (7 year WSU offensive tackle) double-secret-probation medical redshirt and give him an additional fifth year....god what a nightmare.
The big thing in this game, honestly, is the play of our offensive line which really could not be more of an up and down group. IF the line blocks (which it has NOT done against the Dawgs--even when we were good), then I think that this game will be competitive, if not an outright nightmare for the Dub. Now, will the line throw something other than look-out blocks between 4 and 5:30 on Saturday? I doubt it, but that's why they play the game...
Did I mention that we've now beaten you five straight times in basketball?
John: I knew you were going to get around to that, and it is pretty amazing what has happened to the Poop Island basketball program. The Cougars have done a good job recruiting hard workers while the Huskies have had a hard time getting their primadonna recruits to play together. The rebirth of the Cougar basketball program has to be one of the top stories of the decade.
Sedihawk: It sounds like Locker will be ready to go on Saturday. When he's not busy turning water into wine or working on a cure for cancer, will the Savior play the whole game, or should we expect Bonnell to get some playing time? And if Bonnell does play, how much does the play-calling change based on who's at QB?
John: Ty won't officially tip his hat till game time, he wants Doba to prepare for both of them. Personally I don't think we will see much of Carl Bonnell outside of holding for PAT's, and FG's. If Carl is forced to play they won't run him much even though he has decent speed. He is pretty prone to injury, so they will just hand the ball off to Rankin, and Johnson. Carl can make things happen, and he is actually a more accurate passer than Jake, but he doesn't have near the arm strength so when he throws on the run he is often short hops the ball. After last weeks rushing performance and the tendency of Pac Ten safeties to rip Locker's head off you might not see Locker run much on his own either. The Huskies learned something last week, Jake doesn't have to carry the entire load. I would love to see Carl get a series in the first half when it means something, but Ty isn't really into that. If Carl plays QB it is likely to be mopping up at the end of the game.
John: Talking about running the ball, how is the Cougar defensive line holding up? Will they be able stop Rankin while still keeping an eye on Locker?
Brinkhater: You know, given the beating that we took last weekend, you woulda thunk that our D just absolutely sucked. But, the EIGHT turnovers makes it pretty hard to evaluate their performance. So, Brinkhater is going to bank that last week was mostly an abberation caused by the offense's ineptness.
With that in mind, it is Brinkhater's view that the progress of the defense has been the only bright spot in this plague-like season. Also, the move to the 3-4 has really improved the aggressiveness of the D against the run and provided A LOT more flexibility for Abdullah (which is a good thing for Coug fans unless the opponent is Arizona or Oregon).
So, can we contain Rankin? Absolutely. Can we contain Jake the Savior? Don't think so.
The BIG thing to watch in this game is whether or not Jake can stretch the field through the air. My bet is that the Cougs are gonna stack the box and let her rip. IF Jake can take advantage of that over-aggressiveness and hit a pop or two across the seem then I think that this game could get ugly real quick (Like a TOTAL redux of last week for us). But if he can't, it could be a REAL dangerous sign for Puppy Lovers everywhere. Quite seriously, out of all of the schools in the country, Washington is probably the school that Alex Brink feels the most confident about Remember, the 2005 Apple Cup in Seattle is the ONLY in-conference come from behind W that Alex has ever engineered. And, UWs scheme is the type of scheme that Alex really picks apart.
So, the question for us will be the same as for all of our games: We'll move the ball, but can we score?
Brinkhater: What do you think it will take for you to break your five game losing streak to us in basketball this year?
John: For starters we are going to need 35 solid minutes from John Brockman to beat any top tier team. WSU by the way is a top tier team this year. We need to handle the rock better, so the development of point guard Venoy Overton is going to be crucial to the success of the team. We weren't a very good defensive team last year, and that has to change. Hopefully Dentmon, and Overton can close down the perimeter. Ryan Appleby is a streaky kid who can shoot the lights out any given night, but he is a big liability defensively. I see Ryan as more of a hired gun who comes in off the bench shooting three's. We are obviously going to miss Spencer Hawes who will be sitting on the end of an NBA bench this year, but not as much as you think because he was below average defensively. Quincey Pondexter is a kid that has NBA potential that could really make a move this year. He had some legit personal problems last year that affected his play after a strong start. I look for him to take over some games this year with his athleticism. Joel Smith was a kid that had to sit out last year with an injury. He is more of a swing type of guy that can play defense ala Bobby Jones. If he can get it going the team just might gel in time for conference play.
John: So do you guys think you have what it takes to make a run for the Final Four?
Brinkhater: With us, it really is going to come down to the injury bug as well as the world of match-ups. On any given night, we can and will be beat by a team that either shoots REALLY well from the trifecta or has a point guard that can really split the middle of the defense. For Brinkhater, that means that UCLA is a nightmare, USC will be tough with OJ who looks out of this world (god I hope the Sonics get him if they stay), and Oregon will be BRUTAL for us. As for the Huskies, I don't think the guard play is there, so even though I have them as #5 in the conference, I don't think that you will get us this year either (which of course was the same reason why you didn't get us last year).
But, come tourney time, it really is a crap shoot. I think that last year was yet another example of how important seeding is. You get that 2 or 3 seed (or a 1) and you really have a nice path to the regional final. But when you come in as a 4 or 5, it gets REALLY difficult. You get that horrible upset special with a 12 or 13 in the first round, then get a 4 or 5, and then get a 1. YUCK!
For Brinkhater, if things go right, the Cougs are a 2 or 3 seed. That said, if SC improves and if Oregon becomes as good as I fear they might be, then the Cougs may drop to a 5 or 6 seed this year. And that spells trouble. But, hey, we're #9, and if Low or Weaver get hurt we might not even make the provisional NIT...
Brinkhater: What are Washington's plans to defend against the rugby style punting onslaught that the Cougs are going to throw at the Dawgs this weekend? Put differently, do you have any concerns that this UW team may be the first team in the history of EVER that FAILS to stop a Cougar faked punt?
Let me stop laughing for a second...better now...The great thing about the Apple Cup is nothing is going to be held back on game day by either team so you are likely to see about anything. Our special teams are among the worst in the Pac Ten and we are very susceptible to any type of fake you can throw at us. Washington has trouble staying home, so any type of misdirection is often lethal against the purple and gold no matter what the situation is. I don't think anyone has run a fake punt against us this year so the Huskies are probably pretty ripe for that type of ploy. Most of our opponents simply punt the ball to Russo knowing there is little chance he will return it more than 2-3 yards. That actually backfired against Cal last week when he almost took one to the house.
Thanks again to the guys from the WSU blog for taking the time to join us this week!