14 Points: Is It A Lot or A Little?





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It was kind of funny, but not really.

During the Pac-10 media day in July, the Cougars were largely ignored by the media contingency at hand. Coach Paul Wulff and wideout Brandon Gibson didn't get much love from any of the bigger (in readership as well as their financial vulnerabilities) outlets, though our to-be Pullman, Wash., correspondent Jack Ross did pay them a visit.

Don't blame me. If you had a chance to mingle, wouldn't you rather introduced yourself to Dennis Erickson or Slick Rick in the LAX Hilton lobby? The point is that Washington State, new coaching staff and all, has had enough of the worst-team-in-the-conference treatment.

They're the underdogs; they get it. The Bears should put on a nice introductory clinic on Pac-10 football for the new Cougars staff. Right.

Right? Even in the Palouse, Washington State should pose the easiest conference matchup for Cal or anyone else for that matter. There's no caveat here. The only real fretting surrounds whether your sports package includes CSN West, channel four-freaking-hundred.

Also, if the game were played a hundred times over, the Bears would cover the 14-points more often than not. Here are some reasons that you might not want to make the same mistake many did, siding with the Vols in an ill-advised scramble for furthered excitement.

First of all, don't gamble. It's a slippery slope. And kind of illegal.

Second, let me break it down in a long and convoluted stream of thoughts. One of Washington State's relative strengths, its receiving corps, just happens to match up against Cal's relative weakness, the secondary, which struggled most when Michigan State ran a no-huddle offense, which is coincidentally what the Cougars run.

It's kind of like eating candy every meal, but they do it anyway. Ironically, they sort of run an oxymoronic ball-control, hurry-up offense, as their wideouts aren't exactly DeSean Jacksons out there. Case in point: mustering up just 82 receiving yards, none of the Washington State receivers averaged more than nine per catch.

Still, we're talking money here, and you'd hate to blow your Work Study check like it's from the government (wait, it is). Defensive coordinator Bob Gregory said the Bears won't move their corners around according to what they see from the offense, meaning Syd'Quan Thompson will remain left and Darian Hagan right no matter what, meaning Wulff will likely line up returning All-Pac-10 performer Brandon Gibson opposite, you guessed it, Hagan.

Since Cal usually provides coverage over the top with its safeties, Hagan will get plenty of chances to get down and dirty near the line of scrimmage. If he limits Gibson to maybe a half dozen cute and harmless eight-yard grabs, let it be known that the former four-star recruit has officially arrived as a full-fledged star(ter).

He'll put forth his best effort, I'm convinced. Smiling, Gregory said Hagan needed to stop waving to the crowd during the post-game press conference last Saturday. He won't be doing any of that in Pullman.

As mentioned, the Cougars run a mid-tempo no-huddle offense, which is a sensible thing to do against anyone -- since it usually works to the inferior team's advantage to impose uncertainty -- and also against the Bears who sport a newly minted 3-4 defense. Side note: only a few more games until we can drop the plastic wrapping of a description.

How much better will the Cal defense be at going fast after week one? The Bears notched zero sacks against Hoyer, not the biggest dude around, while Washington State quarterback Gary Rogers, say what you will about his experience, is listed at around 6-foot-7 and 235 pounds. Are they going to be able to knock him to the ground?

I'm kidding nobody. The defense will be fine, smoothly operating amid a quiet crowd as the Cougs try to move the ball.

Rogers looks good on paper, but he's still got a snowball's chance in hell against Rulon Davis, who looks like he's just about had it with playing football against guys he's not supposed to hit in practice. Rogers will soon see why we Bay Area sportswriters think that Davis is the scariest man alive.

Not to pile it on, but back Jahvid Best will again look for his first triple-triple, and Shane Vereen will play extra hard until he's actually noticed on campus.

All kidding aside, I've actually walked past Vereen almost every day since school started, and he's unmistakably being ignored. Show him some love, people, just like Will Ta'ufo'ou did with his twice-at-once blocks against that touted Michigan State D-line.

You know what? 14 points don't seem all that much ... Like I said, it's a slippery slope.

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Show Shane Vereen some love with Andrew at [email protected]



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