Football power returns to the Pacific Northwest – Part II
Remember back in September I wrote a column disputing a friend’s claim that football power had returned to the Pacific Northwest? It’s my Sept. 12 column if you want to check your handy Cheney Free Press archives.
The occasion for the column was Washington State’s upset of then No. 25 Southern Cal, on the road no less in LaLa-land. Add in Eastern Washington’s upset of No. 25 FBS team Oregon State in the season-opener, and Washington’s dismantling of then No. 19 Boise State in Dawg-town, and folks were getting somewhat giddy up here about the Pac-North’s apparent rise to glory.
My response then was “Not so fast.” It’s still that, but we’ll do a little mid-season updating.
For the Dawgs, a return to greatness to me meant how they fared in three upcoming games: Arizona, No. 5 Stanford and No. 2 Oregon. They went 1-2, smacking Arizona but getting screwed late in a three-point loss to the Cardinal and finally hammered by the Ducks.
They followed that with a huge loss to Arizona State, but got better last week in a 41-17 win over California. Everybody gets better against the hapless Bears right now.
So at 5-3 overall, 2-3 in the Pac-12, my “return to football greatness” grade for the UW is a B-minus. After a bye this weekend they should beat 3-4 Colorado at home along the shores of Lake Washington before getting another test on the road at current No. 20, and probably ticked off after their second half wilting in Eugene, UCLA, Nov. 16.
Next up, Washington State. Back in September my “return to greatness” indicator was how they would do in four straight games: Stanford, California, Oregon and Oregon State.
Do we have to relive this? The Cougs went 1-3 – thanks Cal – and were hammered by the Cards, Ducks and Beavers.
But Wazzu is 2-3 in the Pac and 4-4 overall, and despite what the averages show, I think they have a good chance of upsetting Pac-12 South co-leader Arizona State (5-2, 5-1) – especially coming off a bye and especially at home tonight on the cold, cold Palouse.
(Watch – we’ll get a heat wave.)
It may not seem like it, but Connor Halliday is sixth in passing in the FBS, and the Cougs have a middle of the road defense. They just can’t run the ball.
My return to greatness grade for the boys from the Palouse is C-plus.
Finally Eastern Washington. In September my marker indicating a return to football power was how well they’d do in an upcoming game against FBS Toledo. They lost 33-21 on late scores for the final tally.
They then played a bad second quarter in a 49-34 loss at Sam Houston State. Since then the third-ranked FCS team in the nation has reeled off four straight wins, three impressively against Big Sky foes they should beat impressively, and topped by Saturday’s 42-37 victory in Missoula over then No. 10 Montana, a game the Eagles led late in the third quarter 42-17.
It should say something that you have to build a 25-point lead in order to get a five-point win in Missoula. I’m not sure what that says, but it should say something.
At 6-2 overall and 4-0 in the Sky, Eastern has a good chance to capture an outright conference title as three of their final four opponents have records at .500 or less. Fifth-ranked Montana State, also 4-0, 6-2, is the lone exception.
If Eastern can knock off Idaho State this weekend in Pocatello, it sets up a historic match up with the Bobcats Nov. 9 at The Inferno. But first the 3-5 Bengals, who are a trap-game team if I’ve ever seen a trap-game team.
If the Eagles can dispatch ISU the same way they dispatched Weber State, North Dakota, Southern Utah and three quarters of the game with the Griz, I’ll elevate their return to greatness grade from a B-plus in time for Montana State.
So there you have it, my return of football power to the Pacific Northwest midterm grades. Close, but no trophies yet.
John McCallum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.