Moore Predicts: With timing on their side, No. 25 Cougs can deliver on biggest stage vs No. 12 Oregon
The game against Oregon and all of the hoopla that surrounds it reminds me of Washington State’s last two Rose Bowl appearances in 1998 and 2003. With ESPN’s College GameDay showing up for the first time in Pullman, it seems like every Coug HAS to be there. And I guess it doesn’t “seem” like it, it’s a reality based on ticket prices at Martin Stadium.
Tickets in the east end zone are going for upwards of $240, and I’ve seen tickets at the 50-yard line for more than $1,000. I don’t ever recall tickets going for this much at Martin Stadium, even for Apple Cups.
We’ve already seen videos of hundreds of Cougs welcoming the GameDay trucks and buses on Wednesday. It looked like a typical Saturday for GameDay, not a Wednesday. Imagine what Saturday will actually look like at the corner of Stadium Way and Ferdinand Lane, where the GameDay set will be.
I don’t know if they keep crowd records for GameDay, but I suspect that the throng that shows up Saturday morning will be the biggest in the 15-year history of the college football preview show.
This is a big deal for Washington State. But the bigger deal is the game at 4:30. If the Cougs win, they’ll be in the best position to win the Pac-12 North. Make no mistake about that. Dawg fans think their team will be in the best position to win the North if the Cougs beat Oregon, but that’s not the case. It’s based on the assumption that Washington will win its sixth straight Apple Cup next month.
I suppose that’s a fair assumption since we’ve been non-competitive in the last five Apple Cups. But this Husky team is not as good as previous Husky teams, so it could be a flawed assumption. If I were a Husky fan, I’d be more concerned about the game against Colorado on Saturday than the one in Pullman. The Buffs might be 15 1/2-point underdogs, but they’re clearly capable of pulling off the upset at Husky Stadium, and if that happens, the outcome of the Oregon-WSU game won’t matter anymore.
I admit to being concerned about the Cougs’ response to the fanfare. I like to think we’ll play well in a huge game like this. But I don’t know if we will. I have a fear that we’ll lay an egg. Maybe that’s based on watching Cougar football for more than 40 years. You can’t just shake the dread and memories from bad games in big spots from the past. I wonder how good we are at 5-1. You could argue that we were fortunate to beat Utah, thanks to an 89-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to Easop Winston. And let’s face it, we beat Oregon State 56-37 two weeks ago in Corvallis, but the Beavers were right there every step of the way.
Then again, Oregon isn’t the same Oregon team we grew used to seeing under Chip Kelly. The Ducks got lucky when the Huskies missed a field goal last week. They got unlucky when they lost to Stanford in overtime after appearing to have a 31-7 lead on the Cardinal, only to have it all disappear in a cavalcade of mistakes.
Among the best things Washington State has in its favor in this game: Oregon is coming off a wildly emotional game against its biggest rival. It was a physical game too — the Ducks’ starting left tackle was injured and will not play against the Cougs. Can they bounce back and play at a high level on the road in front of a crazy crowd at Martin Stadium? I’m inclined to think not, or maybe it’s wishful thinking, I don’t know. Another thing in the Cougs’ favor — we’ve won 10 in a row at home.
I thought Oregon would be favored by 1 or 2 points, but the Cougs are 3-point favorites. It’s interesting to note that Washington State is the only team in the country that has covered every pointspread this year. That typically does not happen for any team six weeks in a row. Oddsmakers usually make adjustments, and at some point the spread-covering stops. Or you could argue that you wouldn’t want to bet against a team that has been as hot as the Cougs.
I’m at a total loss, wrestling with what I hope will happen vs. what I think will happen, mixed in with the historical perspective of Washington State football. As a result, I’m going halfway with the pick. I’ll take the Cougs to win while Oregon covers the spread. WSU 37, Oregon 35.
Colorado at Washington (-15 1/2): The Huskies will bounce back from their OT loss at Oregon, but they’re not good enough to win by more than two touchdowns against a Colorado team that should keep the outcome in doubt into the fourth quarter. Huskies 27, Buffaloes 20