There are three kinds of sports fans, optimists, pessimists and realists. I consider myself to be a realist, but unfortunately, a lot of my view points are taken as pessimistic. Having said all that, I believe the Cougars bowl hopes are hanging by a very thin thread.
On the morning of Sunday, Oct. 2, Coug fans were flying high as the memory of Marquess Wilson burning the Colorado secondary for a game winning touchdown was still fresh. That victory put them at 3-1, atop the Pac-12 North Division and statistically among the best in the country when it came to offense.
Since then, the Cougars have hit a bump in a road and lost two straight and now find themselves searching for three more wins to become bowl eligible.
When Cougar football comes up in discussion, the attention usually focuses on the offense and their gaudy, eye-popping statistics. 453 yards per game (26th nationally), 344 passing yards per game (10th nationally) and 36 points per game (24th nationally). Even their running attack has improved having jumped from 91 yards a game last season to a respectable 127 this season.
But once conference play started, the numbers began to drop across the board. The overall Cougar stats might be a benefit to an easy schedule. Cougar opponents have a combined winning percentage of 45 percent. That’s the second easiest strength of schedule in the Pac-12 behind only Stanford, whose opponents up to this point have combined to win just 35 percent of their games.
On the surface, the Cougars averaging 36 points a game is great and effective. But in conference, they’re just scoring 23 points a game, and that’s the second biggest drop in scoring output in the conference compared to overall season numbers. Nine of the 12 teams have remained consistent, whether good or bad, in keeping with their offense numbers once they started playing teams in conference.
But the Cougars, along with Utah and California, have seen the scoring numbers dip by at least ten points a game. That’s a gap too wide to be ignored.
This weekend, the Cougars host Oregon State in Seattle and the Beavers set up nicely for a rebound game to get the Cougar mojo back on track.
The Beavers have just one win in their pocket and it did not come against Sacramento State, an FCS (formerly 1-AA) school, in their opener in Corvallis. Along with their single victory, Oregon State has the third worst scoring differential and the worst turnover differential in the conference.
A loss this weekend could prove devastating as the Cougars follow up the Beavers with a trip to Eugene against Oregon and more than likely would leave the Cougs still needing three more wins with just four games to play.
My nightmare scenario involves sitting on five wins heading into the Apple Cup. The old adage says that all numbers can be thrown out in a rivalry game. Go ahead and do that, and it still doesn’t deny the fact that up to this point, the Huskies are good, improving and deserving of their top 25 ranking. I really don’t want to go home over Christmas Break and hear all my Husky friends rip me a new one about how they kept us out of a bowl game this year.
The best way to do that, win on Saturday.