Oct. 06, 2012; Corvallis, OR, USA; Members of the Oregon State Beavers marching band high-fives the student section before the game against Washington State Cougars at Reser Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports
It’s never too early to start figuring out what the most important games of the season are for any one team. The criteria is different for every team, and undoubtedly there will be a decent amount of disagreement with this list, but that’s what makes it fun.
This is probably going to be a hotly contested choice, as some are calling this a “sacrificial” game for the sake of a paycheck and it’s not a conference game. But I honestly feel like the Cougs can and need to succeed here. All will not be lost if they don’t get it done though. It’s the first game of the season and taking into account where the game is located, it’s going to be anything but easy. But Washington State has been trying to turn the culture into a winning one, not a winning one just in the Pac-12 and against inferior opponents.
Remember the days when ‘Ole Wazzu was beating the pants off of teams like Purdue, Texas, Colorado and Utah (when they were in different conferences)? Competitive against the likes of Notre Dame and Ohio State on the road? It’s not like Washington State hasn’t been there before. A win in SEC country to start 2013 would start to turn around the perception of the Cougars nationally in a hurry.
The Beavers are talented and will be heavily favored, there’s no doubt about that. They are also a team that the Cougs will catch in mid-October, which is right around when Mike Riley’s teams like to get hottest. But this game is in Martin and even though the records went separate ways last season, the game in Reeser was really a game that the Cougs gave away, more than anything.
For whatever reason these two squads always seem to match up well with each other and I expect this year’s game to be another physical contest that comes down to the 4th quarter. The Cougs need to show some resolve this time around.
Stanford (Seattle Game)
The annual “Seattle Game” is another opportunity for WSU to catch a team off-guard. Last year they did it to Oregon, for a half. This year there’s more at stake, much more. The Cougar faithful that live in Pullman and Spokane will need to see their team upset a top dog in the Seattle game before they’ll even begin to entertain being “OK” with the annual “home” meeting away from Martin.
Also, the last time Stanford was in Seattle, at Century Link field no less, they blew a game against the Huskies. With a 7 point loss to Stanford in Palo Alto in 2012, the Cougs showed they’re getting better, but just how much will more than likely be decided this year against the Cardinal. Coming up short on the final drive just won’t be good enough.
Anybody who remembers what happened the last time ASU invaded Pullman in a cold night game probably likes the Cougar odds. Halloween night with ESPN in town and classes out for the entire afternoon for fans to get pumped up this year is going to be simply CRAZY. Make no mistake, this is going to be one of the very most important games for Washington State this season. With ESPN in town, it’s probably most important to the near-future national tv schedule for Wazzu as well.
The Apple Cup is ALWAYS the most important game on the Cougar schedule, even if it means absolutely nothing in terms of bowl appearance or what have you. This year, it will be the most important game for the Huskies as well. After getting embarrassed in the 4th quarter of the 2012 Apple Cup in Pullman, the Dawgs are going to be out for revenge and a nice capping to their opening season in the new Husky Stadium.
Meanwhile the Cougs will be trying to go back to back wins in the series for the first time since 2008 and get their first win in Seattle since 2007. It should also have bowl implications for at least one of the teams and throw on top that a less than stellar season will have Sark on a hot seat and you got yourself an intriguing rivalry game.