Greetings, and welcome to college football preview season. Sure, it’s not time for actual college football just yet, but the period between May and June has, over the last several years, meant time for preview magazines to hit the shelves, ready for our consumption! Wait, it’s not 2003 anymore. Ok, in that case, nowadays it means that websites throughout the country are electronically publishing 2023 season previews for our online perusal. Not as fun as the old days when one could head to the grocery store on like 5-6 straight Fridays and find a new magazine, but I’ll take in nonetheless.
One thing I’ve noticed with the continuous waning of print media has been the decline in preview magazine cover variety. In the olden days of yore (probably 2010 or so?) Athlon and Lindy’s would tailor their preview covers to each region, and we’d always get a Coug and Husky on the Pac-10/12 preview. There was an Oregon cover, L.A. cover etc. Now there isn’t even a Pac-12 preview at all, or any conference for that matter. How times have changed!
Another oddity, which I’d say borders on the bizarre, is the coverage that Athlon’s website has given to Colorado. I mean, if you go to the pulldown menu in their college football section, here’s what you see:
That’s right. Just between your Big Ten and Pac-12 sections is the...Colorado section? Does a school that’s been almost perennially terrible for most of the last two decades really merit this much attention? And even if you think the answer is ‘yes’, does Colorado have such a rabid fan base that its own dedicated coverage moves the needle for traffic? I’d sure love to see those metrics.
Where was I? Oh yes, football previews! The fine folks over at College Football News published their Washington State Cougars season preview recently, so let’s pick out a few snippets to see whether we think their analysis is on the mark. You can read the entire preview here.
The team at CFB News is certainly high on WSU’s new offensive coordinator.
Washington led the nation in passing yards per game, WKU was No. 2, but was tops in overall yards with 4,929 yards and 43 touchdowns. When that thing worked, forget it - there has been no stopping the Hilltoppers over the last two years when they got in a groove. Washington State fans, Ben Arbuckle is about to bring you your passing production back.
That’s all well and good, but here’s the observation that caught my attention:
The passing game has to push it down the field a bit. Here’s the thing about how WKU ran the offense last year under Arbuckle. It put up a bajillion yards, but the team only won when it was cranking out massive plays. It was 5-0 when the offense averaged seven yards or more per play, and 4-5 when it didn’t.
Washington State only averaged more than seven yards per play twice, and that came in blowouts over weak Colorado State and Stanford teams.
In fairness to Eric Morris, WSU almost certainly led the nation in air yards that went sideways or backward in 2022. While crossing every set of available fingers regarding the offensive line’s ability to give Cam Ward the requisite time to take deep shots, even attempting to do so will be a welcome change. To that end, CFN doesn’t list Ward, or any skill position player for that matter, as the key player in WSU’s offense. Instead, transfer left tackle Esa Pole gets the nod, and we could not agree more!
While Arbuckle’s addition garnered praise, the new coordinator on the other side of the ball, uh, didn’t.
The Auburn defense didn’t do anything particularly amazing last year. It was last in the SEC in takeaways, there wasn’t much of a pass rush, and there wasn’t any one thing it did at a high level.
In fairness, as long as Jake Dickert is the head coach, the defense will reflect his image and philosophy. New DC Jeff Schmedding will certainly have some influence, but it’s really Dickert’s defense.
Interestingly, after Ward, defenders (Brennan Jackson, Ron Stone, Jaden Hicks, Chau Smith-Wade) occupy the next four spots on the 10 Best Players list. The Cougs seem sound on the edges of the defense (rush end and corner), but rather tenuous up the middle. Whether Dickert and Schmedding can shore up the middle will largely determine the fate of WSU’s 2023 defense.
Ok, great. So what’s CFN’s bottom line?
Set The Win Total At: 7
Last year’s team was able to get to seven wins, and two of the six losses came to USC and Utah. There was the horrible, horrible break of not getting Colorado, but it missed UCLA. This year? UCLA likely won’t be as good, Colorado is in TOTAL gut-job rebuild mode under Coach Prime, and they’re both back on the schedule. And who’s off the slate? USC and Utah.
That’s about where I’m at right now. Much like 2022, when WSU was the averagest team that ever averaged an average, 2023 appears to be another year when WSU beats the teams it should beat, and gets outclassed by the better teams on the slate. Such is life as a middling program. Hell, at this point I’d just happily settle for a season that doesn’t end with two straight terrible losses. In six of the last nine full seasons, WSU has ended its year with at least two straight Ls. And no matter how the seasons have gone up to that point, losing badly down the stretch will rarely leave anything but a bad taste in the mouths of the players, coaches and fans.
Oh well. Happy previewing!
I think I’ve said it before, but now that another lost baseball season has concluded, I’ll say it again. There was once a time in 2023 when WSU Baseball beat Oregon State in a three-game series, and found itself in the Top 25. Turns out it would get nothing but worse afterward, as WSU went 8-18 in the Pac-12 following that first weekend, capping another lost season with an 0-3 home sweep at the hands of Stanford.
For yet another season, and despite the Pac-12 expanding the tournament to include the top nine finishers, WSU finds itself among the bottom teams that wasn’t good enough to qualify. This is getting old.
This Week in Parenting
Sports, sports and more sports! But first, kid buffoonery. Mrs. Kendall likes to wake up before the kids depart for school to make their lunches. But when she’s out of town, as was the case this week, stuff be changin’. I always make their lunches the night before so I don’t have to get to it in the morning, especially now that I have to chase Buda the dog around. I had to leave for work rather early Wednesday, and I didn’t get to their chips for some reason. Instead, I left the bag of chips on the island, and placed two snack bags next to the bag. “There’s no possible way they miss this,” I thought. So of course when I got home that afternoon, the first things I saw were the chips and snack bags, right where I’d left them. Apparently I have to display a neon sign next time. Amazing.
It was a...good week for the Rockies? It was! It didn’t start off auspiciously, as all of four - FOUR!!! - kids showed up to practice on Wednesday. I just don’t get it, but whatever. Then Buda the dog decided to puke all over the carpet Thursday morning, and we had to have Mrs. Kendall’s car towed. Really needed some good news Thursday night! So of course the Rockies decided to fall behind the Braves 5-0 after an inning. But the Rockies battled back, chipping away as the clock ticked. A 5-0 deficit became 6-6 in the top of the fifth, and the 11 year-old stood at the plate with a man on 3rd and two out. After struggling mightily at the plate all season, he’d started two-for-two. THERE’S A LINE DRIVE TO LEFT, MAKE IT THREE-FOR-THREE! THE ROCKIES LEAD, 7-6!
Then it was time for the Braves to try and ruin everything, and they were on the verge of doing just that, as they had guys on 2nd and 3rd with no outs. But then, strikeout, strikeout. Just like that, we needed one out to sew up win #2. After the count hit 2-0, the coach headed to the mound for a visit. Timeout! Apparently it was his second visit off the inning, mandating a pitching change. Cue the meathead dad, straight out of Jersey Shore central casting - you know, that tanktop-wearing jabroni who thinks doing all those curls will get him above 5’6” - who decided to keep shouting, “He has to go out! Get him out!”
Fair enough. The kid had pitched very well, and rules are rules. So our coach opted to bring in the third baseman, who throws about three times as hard as the kid he replaced. Swing and a miss. Swing and a miss. Suddenly, it’s 2-2, and the Braves coach gets desperate. Here comes the pitch. It’s high for ball three, but wait! The runner is trying to steal home! He’s tagged out five feet in front of home plate! Ballgame! The Rockies win! Meathead dad, who was so excited about making us change pitchers, loses! Let’s go home!
On the teenager front, it was a mixed bag. The mighty Dolphins played their spring game against the rival Navarre Raiders Friday night, with varsity playing one half and JV playing a quarter. Oh, then (unbeknownst to the crowd) they decided to just scrimmage for another hour. Yay? The kiddo, who has been moved from corner to outside linebacker, got in for a few plays at the end and kind of sort of had two assists.
Saturday brought a double header in baseball, at a place 40 minutes from the house (I learned this after initially being told that the games would take place five minutes from home). We hadn’t been in a weekend tournament since leaving Europe, and let me tell you, sitting through a May game in Germany is a lot more pleasant than doing so in Florida. Things did not go nearly as well for the Sharks as they went for the Rockies. But hey, at least we got to drive 40 minutes for two more games on Sunday. Hooray?
This first article is pretty much me. What a waste.
Goodbye To All That - by Tim Miller - The Triad
Leaving the GOP.
Winner Of French Scrabble Title Does Not Speak French : The Two-Way : NPR
It took about two months for Nigel Richards to memorize a French Scrabble dictionary. The New Zealand native has won many English-language Scrabble tournaments.