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College Footbal Preview 

by Howie Stalwick & r & & r & Washington State University Cougars & r & THE NATIONAL RANKING (BY SPORTS ILLUSTRATED): 51st among 119 teams in NCAA Division I-A & r & THE PREDICTED FINISH (BY SI): 5-7 overall, 3-6 Pacific-10 Conference (tied for sixth among 10 teams) & r & THE GOOD: Senior WR Jason Hill has hauled in more touchdown passes (25) the past two seasons than any other Cougar has ever caught in four years. WSU's other preseason All-American, senior DE Mkristo Bruce, tied for second in the Pac-10 with 10 quarterback sacks and 15 tackles for losses last year. Junior QB Alex Brink, who passed for 2,891 yards and 24 touchdowns last season, is on pace to break every major career passing record at WSU. RB DeMaundray Woolridge had a pair of 100-yard rushing games as a true freshman last year and looks like a quality replacement for 1,900-yard rusher Jerome Harrison. & r & THE BAD: The secondary is still sh-sh-shaky, one year after WSU ranked 106th in total defense (442.6 yards per game) and 113th in pass defense (289.1 yards allowed per game). & r & THE UGLY: Inexperienced long snappers could make every point after touchdown, field goal and punt an adventure, and the kicker might be walk-on Romeen Abdollmohammadi (pronounced "Kicker"). He's a soccer player, originally from Iran, who played one season of high school football three years ago... and botched his only field goal attempt. & r & THE SCHEDULE: One year after opening with wins over three cupcakes, an older, more experienced Cougar team starts out with a road game at seventh-ranked (by SI) Auburn. Four other opponents, all in the Pac-10, made SI's preseason Top 20. & r & THE QUOTE: DE Mkristo Bruce on playing Auburn: "No one expects us to win this game. Not one person (besides the Cougars). To go in there at their place -- 'The Jungle' -- is going to be tough. But this is why you play football at this level; it's for these games." & r & THE TRIVIA: Why is WSU crisscrossing the nation to risk a serious whuppin' at the hands of a potential national championship team? A school-record $850,000 paycheck, that's why. & r & THE COACH: Bill Doba (fourth year, all at WSU; 19-16 overall, including 4-7 in 2005) & r & THE SEASON OPENER: At Auburn, Saturday, Sept. 2, 4:45 p.m. PDT (ESPN2; KXLY 920 and Cougar Radio Network affiliates) & r & THE HOME OPENER: vs. Idaho, Saturday, Sept. 9, 12:45 p.m. (FSN; KXLY 920 and other Cougar Radio Network affiliates) & r & THE TICKETS: (800) GO-COUGS





Eastern Washington University Eagles & r & THE NATIONAL RANKING (BY THE SPORTS NETWORK): 26th among 122 teams in NCAA Division I-AA & r & THE PREDICTED FINISH (BY BIG SKY CONFERENCE): 2nd by coaches, 6th by media (among nine teams; no won-loss records predicted) & r & THE GOOD: Junior OG Matt Alfred, a first-team All-American last season, again clears the way for powerful RB Ryan Cole. As a junior transfer from Oregon State last year, Cole rushed for 879 yards and 14 touchdowns. Junior S Bryan Jarrett made the All-Big Sky first team last season, his first after transferring from Division II Western Washington. Safety Nick Denbeigh is back to lead the defense. & r & THE BAD: Junior Chris Peerboom and redshirt freshman Matt Nichols are still battling for the starting quarterback job. Peerboom's career stats: 11-for-34 passing (32 percent), 88 yards (2.6 per attempt), six interceptions (one for every other completion), no touchdowns (no comment). & r & THE UGLY: The Eagles return 41 lettermen after a second straight Big Sky co-championship, but virtually no program can avoid a serious drop-off after losing the greatest quarterback (Erik Meyer) and receiver (Eric Kimble) in school history. & r & THE SCHEDULE: The Eagles start out with road games against the Pac-10's Oregon State and sixth-ranked (by SI) West Virginia. 'Nuf said. & r & THE QUOTE: Coach Paul Wulff: "There is no question that this is a team that has the potential to surprise some people and do some good things down the road. But we have a lot of work in front of us." & r & THE TRIVIA: College football coaches work incredibly long hours, but it's obvious Eastern's coaches don't spend all their time at the office. After all, four of the coaches became fathers in a five-month span from December to April, and the wife of offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin is expecting. & r & THE COACH: Paul Wulff (seventh year at Eastern; 41-28 overall, all at Eastern, including 7-5 in 2005) & r & THE SEASON OPENER: At Oregon State, Thursday, Aug. 31, 7 p.m. (FSN; KGA 1510 and other Eagle Radio Network affiliates) & r & THE HOME OPENER: vs. Central Washington, Saturday, Sept. 16, 6:05 p.m. (no TV; KGA 1510 and Eagle Radio Network affiliates) & r & THE TICKETS: (866) 4GO-EAGS





University of Idaho Vandals & r & THE NATIONAL RANKING (BY SPORTS ILLUSTRATED): 112th among 119 teams in NCAA Division I-A & r & THE PREDICTED FINISH (BY SI): 2-10 overall, 1-7 in Western Athletic Conference (eighth among nine teams) & r & THE GOOD: The return of legendary coach Dennis Erickson provides the Vandals with a certain aura that might be worth an extra win or two. Sophomore RB Jayson Bird, who rushed for team highs of 859 yards and eight touchdowns two years ago, returns after missing most of last season (and redshirting) with a broken collarbone. Senior QB Steve Wichman, who passed for 2,746 yards and 15 TDs last season, should improve under Erickson's tutelage. & r & THE BAD: The Vandals still lack depth, experience and talent at too many positions. A seventh straight losing season is a distinct possibility. & r & THE UGLY: Erickson lost the game-breaking receiver his wide-open passing offense needs when Daniel Smith skipped his senior year to turn pro. Also, All-WAC kicker Mike Barrow will miss the season after blowing a knee playing basketball, and veteran starters Dan Dykes (safety) and Hank Therien (offensive tackle) left the team. & r & THE SCHEDULE: The defensively challenged Vandals open the season with road games against two teams ranked in the top eight nationally in offense a year ago -- Michigan State (fifth, 497.3 yards per game) and Washington State (eighth, 489.3). MSU is coached by former Idaho head coach John L. Smith, who was an assistant under Erickson at Idaho and Washington State. & r & THE QUOTE: RB Jayson Bird: "Our priorities are to win the WAC, go to a bowl game and have a winning season. I know we're going to have a winning season." & r & THE TRIVIA: Since starting football in 1894, Idaho posted as many as three straight winning seasons only once (1903-05) before Erickson had four consecutive winning seasons during his previous stint as head coach (1982-85). & r & THE COACH: Dennis Erickson (fifth year at Idaho, first since 1985; 32-15 at Idaho, 145-56-1 overall in 17 college seasons) & r & THE SEASON OPENER: At Michigan State, Saturday, Sept. 2, 9 a.m. (ESPN College Football Pay Package; KJRB 790, KVNI 1080 and other Vandal Radio Network affiliates) & r & THE HOME OPENER: Idaho State, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2:05 p.m. (Go Vandals TV Network; KJRB 790, KVNI 1080 and other Vandal Radio Network affiliates) & r & THE TICKETS: (888) 8-UIDAHO

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