Once again, it's Football Friday. For Oregon State and Washington State fans, there are more mysteries than givens to anticipate. No matter. Time to rev up the engines and prepare for another great Pac-10 game.
Saturday afternoon at 3:30 pm PST in Corvallis, the Cougars and Beavers will meet at one of the best college football facilities on the West Coast.
Aside from being more than a four-touchdown favorite on their home turf, there is good reason that this game is in the complete control of Coach Mike Riley and his OSU team. Being in complete control is something that has eluded the Beavs this season.
If the OSU team that beat top-ranked USC a couple of weeks ago shows up, this game will get ugly early on.
But if the Oregon State team that traveled to take on Penn State shows up, it's anyone's ball game.
That's the mystery of Oregon State football this season. There has never been a question about their talent. It's all about consistency and focus for this edition of Beaver football.
Conversely, Washington State under first year Coach Paul Wulff has been consistent five out of six games. They have been outplayed and outclassed by every opponent, with the exception of their lone victory over Portland State.
That's not to say the Cougs haven't played hard. They just haven't played well enough to win.
OK, there are some things that aren't mysterious about either team.
Oregon State has a truly bright star in their offensive backfield in the person of Jacquizz Rodgers. Rodgers is a special player that potentially could establish rushing records for both OSU and the Pac-10. He is a freshman, but he plays like a senior when it comes to field vision. One crack at the line and he's gone. Gone.
Beaver fans will tell you they have the best wide receiver combination in the conference. Sammie Stroughter is an All-American on track to be a first round draft selection next spring. On the other side of the field, Shane Morales runs crisp patterns, though he won't beat anyone with speed. Blazing speed isn't necessary when he'll catch anything thrown his direction.
The excellent running game, complimented with terrific receivers, has made it possible for Lyle Moevao to evolve into one of the top signal callers in the Pac-10. Don't be fooled by Moevao's hard-nosed style of play. The kid has an accurate arm and can drop the ball into the hands of any wideout with nice touch. He's hard to sack, not because of his size and strength, but with a quick release that is as fast as anyone in the country.
Washington State has one "sure thing" player on offense in the person of All-American Brandon Gibson. He's pretty much a lock for a high draft pick by an NFL team next spring. Heck, Gibson would have been a second or third round pick last year but wanted to be a part of turning around the WSU program.
The Cougs' other rock solid player this season is senior middle linebacker Greg Trent. Trent is a team leader that will be around the football all afternoon.
Looking at these two teams and predicting what will happen on Saturday gets to be a dicey proposition otherwise.
Oregon State has yet to play four quarters of solid defense. That's a huge mystery when you look at the talent they have on defense.
The situation gets blurrier looking at Washington State. They have yet to put together two quarters of either offense or defense. WSU has had their moments, but that's the problem. One minute they play well enough to shoot down any opponent, but most of the time they tend to shoot themselves in the foot.
Considering the change in coaching staff and philosophy, you have to expect some of that.
What's really tough for the Cougs this year is team depth. Four years of weak recruiting classes has left Coach Wulff with cupboards that are literally bare.
By dinnertime Saturday evening, the mystery will be revealed. Odds are that Beaver Nation will be celebrating a much-needed victory.
As long as there is a chance, don't count the Cougs out. They have made steady improvement despite a ridiculous number of injuries to players expected to make big contributions to the team.
The game will be played.
Whoever gets the win will have to earn it.
If history tells us anything about these two teams matching up on the football field, anything might happen.
Wonder if that reveals the mystery?