We're just a few days away from the annual Homecoming Game for Washington State. Yes, there's excitement in the air. Then again, that's always the case when it comes to Cougar football and their loyal fans.
There will be dancing after the game.
There will be a king and queen selected from a royal court for coronation.
There will be a Pac-10 matchup between two schools that have more in common than they ever wanted.
Coach Mike Bellotti will bring his Oregon Ducks to Pullman as heavy favorites to defeat Coach Paul Wulff and his Cougs. The betting line has Oregon almost a three-touchdown favorite on the road. On the road, my friends! Yikes!
One thing both teams have in common is the fact that their strength is in defense.
Common, yes indeed. Comparable? Not really.
The Ducks can make a strong argument that they have the most talented defensive secondary in the nation. Not in the Pac-10, in the nation. From an athletic standpoint, Oregon's D-backs are superior to those lining up in the Cougar secondary. So much for any commonality there.
Both teams have disappointed their fans thus far.
Oregon had valid aspirations to win a conference title this year. The Ducks got off to the right start by handing rival Washington and overmatched Utah State defeats on their home field turf.
But the offense sputtered on the road against Purdue. Oregon was lucky to come away with an overtime victory. The lucky streak ended last week when Boise State easily defeated the Ducks in Eugene.
Washington State wasn't expected to win their season opener against Oklahoma State. They didn't. WSU wasn't expected to get blown out by Cal. They were. The Cougs were expected to pick up a win against Baylor. Nope.
By the time Portland State rolled into Pullman last weekend, people were wondering if WSU would pick up their first win. On that note, they finally did.
The fact that WSU is 1-3 on the season isn't what disappoints some. It's the fact that all three losses were total knockouts. Referees would have stopped all three contests if boxing rules were in effect.
Both teams have been plagued with injuries at the quarterback position. The case for Washington State is much more poignant than that of Oregon.
Gary Rogers was "the man" at quarterback coming out of spring ball. Rogers was the starter after a humbling loss to Oklahoma State. Rogers was forced to revert to the role of backup against both Baylor and Portland State.
The fifth-year senior never pouted, whined, or acted out in immature ways over the span of his years at WSU. Rogers has been a model student, player, and citizen.
After a defensive lineman took out frustration with a late hit on Rogers last Saturday, there was a collective gasp across Cougar Nation. Good news though: He walked out of the hospital the next day. The bad news: Gary Rogers' days of playing collegiate football are over.
Two weeks into the season, Kevin Lopina became "the man." Lopina was a little shaky in his first start against Baylor but showed promise. He got off to a very nice start against PSU—a very nice start.
When his running back missed an assignment, Lopina took a hit from the blindside that knocked him out of the game. It may have knocked him out for the season—just like Rogers.
Lopina mirrors Rogers in other ways. He's a solid student, player, and citizen. Unlike Rogers, he'll be back. If not this season, next year.
The story of quarterback for Washington State explains why the Cougs are picked to lose this Saturday by nearly three touchdowns.
If there's one thing Cougar Nation knows, it's this: Expect the unexpected.
Do you think the Cougs will surprise folks this Saturday?