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October 24, 2006

Swami's mid-week pre-Husky commentary

We're off to play the Huskies, the troublesome Huskies of Ty. They are, we hear, a troublesome team, a troublesome team they are. With Bonnell and Sonny and everyone else, they give you fits, they take their hits. They make you play the livelong day because...because of the troublesome things Ty does! We're off to play the Huskies...the troublesome Huskies of Ty.

Obviously, Swami will be in attendance in the Emerald City this weekend.

I mean, after all...how could we pass it up? Gametime temperature should be about minus 35 (35 degrees lower than back in cozy Tempe, Arizona). Wind may be blasting in off either an ice-cold lake or an ocean inlet. Have you seen that place? It's surrounded by mountains and water on all sides. No matter which direction you look, you see snow-capped peaks. Make no mistake - it will be cold for the boys in Gold and White (with a smattering of Maroon). Even a mild breeze will drop the real-feel temperature 10 degrees and make the already humid air feel that much colder.

I've heard a rumor that the ASU Alumni Association is sponsoring an early-afternoon boat ride across Lake Washington to the game. Can you imagine that? A boat ride on a windy, choppy body of water three miles across in near-freezing (for this Arizona boy) temperatures. Doesn't the ASUAA know what it's getting people into with boat rides around that place? Don't they know what boat rides to Husky Stadium meant to the likes of Rick Neuheisel, among others?

Did I mention the ever-present possibility of precipitation?

We love it. Swami will travel nearly anywhere to see ASU football (even Tucson) and this weekend will be no exception, as he and his posse descend upon the Emerald City. Miss the chance to get just-off-the-boat-fresh, deep red Alaskan King salmon at Pike Place Market?
Never.

And what do we expect to see? What does it mean? One word - everything. No pressure guys, but this has become the fulcrum around which the entire season may pivot. And not just because Swami says so.

Just a reminder that prior to the season and again after the season started, much like everyone else, I said that the games through the USC game would be critical in determining what sort of team the 2006 Devils were going to be, what sort of season they would have. We've found out, and the discovery hasn't been as pleasant as we'd hoped. The win against Stanford was some of what the doctor ordered and here's hoping that the Devils can carry whatever momentum that was gained in that scrimmage into hostile territory this weekend.

The Huskies have turned what was an absolutely abysmal program into a possible steamroller. Prior to the season, the Puget Sound pundits preached patience. Let Tyrone Willingham develop his program slowly, they said. Rome wasn't built in a day and while Husky football fell in an afternoon, it would take time and patience to allow it to grow. The Huskies showed spunk in narrow losses to Oklahoma, USC and Cal and no life at all in a ridiculous loss to Oregon State. Things were only supposed to be worse for the Huskies after Washington's Isaiah Stanback finished his college career with a serious foot injury in that OSU loss. Despite a three-game losing streak, or perhaps because of the nature of that streak, the Huskies roll into their home stadium on Saturday a squeaky-narrow favorite over the Sun Devils.

Despite all the noise I made up there earlier in this column, the weather will not be a factor in the playing of this game. It will only determine how many Husky fans (we expect a sellout, or near sellout, including Swami and the entourage) are left in the stands by the middle of the fourth quarter.

Weather will not be a factor because we expect this game will be played largely on the ground. Paint-Dry Ty, as he is called by some in the Pacific Northwest, will be looking to avoid another 5-interception performance by Carl Bonnell. In his Monday remarks, he appeared to be concerned with the Sun Devils' team speed and noted that it would probably be wise to slow the game down in order to allow the Huskies to play the game at their own pace, not the break-neck pace he anticipated from the Devils. The Huskies have probably lost usual starter at tailback, Kenny James, and will replace him with Louis Rankin, giving up a little size at the position. The O-line is huge. Simply put.

And what of the Devils - all of whom are making the trip to the Emerald City for the very first time?

As the Scarecrow said - if I only had a brain. Avoiding momentum-killing penalties, minimizing turnovers, covering and running instead of airing it out for the sake of airing it out. As noted above, we expect the Huskies to play a grind-it-out game and we would be shocked and dismayed to see the Sun Devils, on the road, go vertical and open up the possibility of making the big mistake which could take away the chance to win. Torain right, Torain middle, Keegan wherever, Zach Miller middle. Kimbrough and Jones once in awhile. You should all go to the Huskies-dedicated Rivals.com site and read the Ty-speak between the lines and you'll see that he's concerned about his linebacking situation. It was evidence in Marshawn Lynch's game-winning run for Cal last weekend.

The Tin Man found his heart in Oz, and we hope the Devils have found theirs as well. I have remarked ad nauseum about the Devils playing flat on the road. If I have to cross the 520 bridge and run through the Bellevue Hyatt screaming and butt-naked (other than having maroon and gold paint in strategic places) in order to fire up this squad, believe me: I won't, but then, I shouldn't have to. The Devils have to play aggressively, smart, fast and must put the Huskies on their heels early. Take the crowd out of it with sustained drives - boring drives.

The Lion had courage and I believe the Devils found theirs in La-La Land against the Trojans. The Devils need to establish theirs; because there's no question the Dawgs have it - in abundance.

The Devils' trip to the Emerald City will have one of two possible results, with important ramifications for the remainder of the season. A loss and the Devils may have that feeling the Wicked Witch of the West described so eloquently: "I'm melting, I'm melting...."

A win of any kind sets up the Devils for a solid afternoon in Corvallis and then: There's no place like home.


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