Is it Cougar football yet?

Happy Friday! I can tell that we are only 41 days from the beginning of the Coach Mike Leach era because I can hear the blood pressure starting to thump in my ears. I should probably get that checked. Anyway, remember to get your tickets for the Party that we are throwing at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville  in Las Vegas. Early Bird pricing is still in effect for a short time.  Get information and tickets here.  

I am thrilled to announce Lew Wright as today’s Guest Blogger! He is graduate of Washington State University and a member of the Pirates of the Palouse. Lew Wright has covered Cougar athletics for over a decade. His work has been published in a number of national and local print and online media including: New York Times, Washington Post, Business Week, LA Business Journal and a number of Southern California newspapers. Editing credits include a sports blog, book of poetry and corporate newsletters. He was a regular on “The Locker Room” with Toby Howell on KGA 1590am, talking Cougar football for a couple of seasons. And for the past year and a half, his focus has been on the operation of his Fastframe franchise which celebrated its 22nd anniversary this month.

Swing’em! – Erik


Lew Wright
WSU Grad and a Pirate of the Palouse

About a week ago I was honored to receive an invitation from  Chris Klug and Erik Hill to submit a post to the Pirates of the  Palouse blog. Chris and Erik placed the toughest parameters possible on acceptable content. None! With the help of one of my former editors the decision was made to dive into my favorite summer topic.

Is it Cougar football yet?

There are still too many weeks before Washington State opens up their 2012 Pac-12 campaign against one of the top pre-season picks of college football independents, the BYU Cougars, in Provo, UT on August 30th. Heck, fall camp is still weeks away.

This is the time of year Cougar Nation ponders the pending success of Cougar football. It’s what we do.

2012 will be the second season for Pac-12 (formerly Pac-10) football following conference expansion. Both geographically and logically, WSU is part of the Pac-12 North division.

Conventional wisdom acknowledges Cougar football is now in the hands of one of the great offensive minds ever to patrol the sidelines of a college gridiron, Coach Mike Leach. However, the same voices consistently set aside that fact and rely on recent history to influence prognostications. The majority
predict Washington State will finish 5th or 6th in the Pac-12 North.

Despite a smattering of experience and research, my prediction for the Cougs in 2012 probably won’t be referred to as either conventional or wise.

Washington State could have been good last season and was only about 10-12 plays away from winning at least six games. A few calls going their way, perhaps 7-wins. When it came to getting a break or having luck go their way, the Cougs had little of either over the course of a 4-8 campaign in 2011.

“I’d rather be lucky than good,” sums up my view of Cougar football in 2012. Let’s save the discussion for the necessity of being good to take advantage of luck for another time.

With much of the heavy lifting done to rebuild the WSU football program by former WSU Coach Paul Wulff, the reins have been handed to the very capable Coach Leach.

Leach inherits a roster and fan base itching for success. And if performance on the field in 2012 comes close to matching the expectations of re-energized folks known as Cougar Nation, the Cougs should be bowl eligible in November.

Will Washington State earn the right to play in the Pac-12 Championship game at the end of the season? Stranger things have happened.

Realistically, no one in Cougar Nation should be so bold as to talk championship talk. But the off-season is all about hyperbole laced with the words like “can or might” rather than “could have or might have”.

In the early days of July, I see reason to be optimistic given the history of Coach Leach.

Leach doesn’t rely on luck. He takes advantage of it. The guy has relied on breaking down the opponent, then craft game plans which have proven successful by befuddling outstanding competition.

All that said, here’s my prediction for the Pac-12 North:

Stanford        11-1    8-1

WSU               9-3     6-3

Oregon           9-3     6-3

Cal                  7-5     5-4

OSU                5-7     4-5

UW                  5-7     3-6


Here’s where some of reasoning/craziness comes from.

Stanford Wins Pac-12 North
I’m a believer in the defense Stanford Coach David Shaw will field this year coupled with a mind-numbing running attack. The lone loss for the Cardinal may be early on when they travel down to LA to meet potential national champion USC.

WSU sails into post-season play
WSU should be able to win a couple of Pac-12 road games against OSU and ASU with their only home loss coming at the hands of Oregon (in Seattle). If the Cougs take advantage of their schedule and get off to a 4-0 start, going 5-3 the rest of the way with the scoring potential of the Air Raid offense will be very

Oregon starts strong then fades
Coach Chip Kelly may end the 2012 season wishing he’d taken the NFL Tampa Bay job as a result of luck not going his way. The toughest teams on the Ducks schedule are their last four games, three of which are away from home cooking and Autzen Stadium. Oregon could stumble down the finish losing three of
their last four.

Bears bowl bound…barely
Cal will be tested early on with their third and fourth games on the road against two national champion contenders, Ohio State and USC. They may struggle at home against both Stanford and Oregon. Despite a tested QB, solid running game and potentially good defense the Bears have been predictably unpredictable under Coach Jeff Tedford.

Beavers struggle early
Since returning to Corvallis from the NFL, Coach Mike Riley’s Beavers have underachieved over the early part of their schedule. With a home game against Wisconsin and a road trip to play UCLA, the Beavers may stagger to a record of 2-4 midway through the season. The highlight of their season will likely come
in The Civil War season finale with a win over the Ducks.

UW schedule spells doom for Dawgs
As for Cougar cross-state rival Washington, their schedule opens up brutally with four opponents certain to be Top 25 caliber: LSU, Stanford, Oregon and USC. Similar to OSU, the Dawgs could find themselves 2-4 at the halfway mark. Traveling to Arizona in week 7 is an unlikely opponent to begin a winning streak with. An upset victory over Utah in mid-November won’t turn down the volume of moaning Husky cohorts.

2012 may not return Washington State to the elite of college football with the first in a series of 10-win seasons. But it’s likely Cougar football will return to that conversation for the first time in 10-years.


-Lew Wright

NOTE: Many thanks to editor, colleague, Coug and son, Lew Wright, Jr., for contributing to this post.

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