September 8, 2012; Berkeley, CA, USA; Southern Utah Thunderbirds celebrate after an interception against the California Golden Bears during the first quarter at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
It’s always difficult as a fan not to treat an FCS opponent like a preseason game, if you have any faith in your team. After Washington State defended their way to an upset of #25 USC this past week, I’m sure it’s tough for the players to not treat this the same way. Let’s delve into some reasons to refocus and respect our upcoming opponent and Big Sky representative Southern Utah Thunderbirds.
Play To Win the Game
Once the schedule is set, you can’t change who your opponents are going to be. You have to play the team that comes out on the field and they have to play you. WSU head coach Mike Leach has been adamant over the Summer and all throughout Fall camp that no matter who the opponent is, it’s time for the Cougs to “expect to win”. That includes teams anywhere from high school to the NFL. Once the ball is kicked off on Saturday, the only thing that matters is that Southern Utah will be playing to win the game. Washington State better match that intensity.
9 Games to Learn From
If you’re having a tough time getting the point of just how serious an FCS opponent can be, look back to the first week of 2013. Nine FCS opponents walked into FBS stadiums and won. NINE! That includes SUU defeating South Alabama by a score of 22-21. Kansas State fell, UConn fell, Oregon State fell and West Virginia almost fell.
2 of Previous 3 Vs Big Sky
Washington State has never lost to an FCS team, but they sure have come close recently. In 2010, the Cougars had to put together an 18 point 4th quarter to somehow come back and beat Montana State 23-22. After blowing the doors off of ISU in 2011, the Cougs had to hang on to a rallying Eastern Washington last season, by a 24-20 margin.
SUU Can Be Dangerous
The T-birds really put a scare into California last season, down by a score of 20-17 headed into the 4th. The Bears rallied for 30 4th quarter points, but still an impressive FBS showing for a team picked to finish 8th (last season) in the Big Sky Conference. Speaking of which, SUU stunned the following Big Sky representatives in 2012 to finish 5th in the conference; Montana State (#4 FCS), Portland State, Eastern Washington (#1 FCS), Montana and Northern Arizona (#11 FCS).
New Staff, New Transfers, New Attitude
The previous stat means that SUU gets up for big games and they aren’t afraid of their opponents. Again, SUU defeated all 3 of the ranked FCS teams on their schedule last season and all 3 were ranked in the top 11! Add to that the victory in week 1 against newly anointed FBS mainstay South Alabama and you’ve got a team that’s downright scary in week 3. Ok, maybe not “scary” per se, to a Pac-12 caliber team, but at least not one to scoff at.
SUU head coach Ed Lamb revamped his coaching staff over the offseason and the focus has been placed on getting competitive transfers into the program to infuse talented kids with a chip on their shoulders. Not sure to what extent that got done, but apparently they got some, because so far, the T-birds are better than advertised.
Washington State may not need to worry this week, but they had better be ready if they don’t want to become the next FCS tragedy in 2013.