Examining CU Football, Pac-12, and Big XII Football over the last 10 years using The Hist-O-Graph...and then saying stuff.
This week the Hist-O-Graph goes provincial, I focus on our first official Pac-12 opponent: the Washington State Cougars. If you're confused, the first article explains everything* and a link can be found after the jump.
The Washington State Cougars Hist-O-Graph: Just...How?
My question isn't 'how did Wazzu get so bad,' my question is 'how did Wazzu get so good for those three years ('01-'03) in the first place? They had three ten-win seasons in a row, and then... nothing.
I know I said in an earlier article that Cal had made a deal with the devil, but it truly looks more like it was Washington State that did the deed instead. I imagine the exchange going something like this:
"Firstly: I shall place a large crimson WSU flag in the background of every on-campus taping of 'College GameDay' from now until the Rapture. Secondly: Either you can be good, or you can beat Washington. But you can't have both, and you sometimes won't have either. Thirdly: You can play in the Rose Bowl ('02), and you can beat Texas ('03). I'll even let you be co-champion of the Pac-10 ('02). But afterwards you'll be awful. Awful, awful, awful."
And the collective reply from Wazzu would've been, "Well, we're already kind-of awful sometimes. Sure! What do we have to lose?"
The answer of course, is after the jump...
"What do we have to lose?" the Wazzu fans ask. Try your head coach (Mike Price, lost in '02 to Alabama), or your other head coach (Bill Doba, lost in '07 to Losing St). Or how about losing an average of 8 games a year? ('04-'11). Way back, Dennis Erickson was the Cougars' coach (this guy is everywhere!) and may actually be who is making all these unholy deals. Where did he go after Wazzu? Miami.
The Cougars also lost their starting QB Jeff Tuel to a broken collarbone, but with Marshall Lobbestael as his backup, they did not lose having a QB with an un-pronounceable name. What else did they lose? Just this week, Buffzone pulled some quotes from current WSU coach about how bad it was when he first arrived in Pullman.
"I was disappointed with where we started. Things were a lot lower here than you would ever want to imagine."
Wulff said the talent level and academic performance at Washington State was as bad as his team's 2-25 record in the Pac-10 over the last three seasons indicates.
The Cougars operated well under the 85 scholarship limit in 2008 and 2009 during the house cleaning. Only five players remain from the original roster the current staff inherited.
You can't see that churn in the graph; but every year from '04 to '11 WSU signed an average of 25.25 players, and never less than 23 players. By the way, 85 schollys divide into 4 school years 21.25 times. When you consider that their classes were regularly above 50% 2-star recruits, and that they couldn't even keep those guys around is another measure of how bad things got. Academics? Pffsshhh; they might as well have put the band on the field, Wazzu fell that far.
What you can see is that they also lost the ability to reliably land 4-star recruits. WSU is similar to Oke State and Oregon State in that any 5 star recruit they land replaces another 4 star recruit they would otherwise sign; instead of adding to them. That was in '07; and even though they're reliably landing 3-star guys, they're barely getting any 4's.
There is one anomaly; the 3-year periodic 2-star bonanza in recruiting. You see it in '05, '08, and '11. Yet I can't figure out why it's happening; their W/L record doesn't dip any worse than in other years, and often it dips worse when recruiting is less bad. In '08 it obviously happened because of the coaching change; but why in '05 and '11, and why every three years?
Maybe there's some funky weather where every third year Pullman gets a wicked winter, and every football recruit born south of the 40th Parallel just says, "ya know what? It's not worth it."
You know which middling-to-bad BigXII school just isn't worth it either? I'll give you a hint...it's not Baylor.
The Iowa State Cyclones Hist-O-Graph: No-one Goes to the Middle of Nowhere
Though you wouldn't know it from looking at them, Iowa State's actually been playing football longer than any person on this planet has been alive. They also had Pop-f**ing-Warner as a coach. Can you believe that? Well, the incredulity stops there; their last conference championships were in 1911 and 1912, and may or may not be a partial cause for World War I.
To open the decade, Iowa State won 9 games and the Insight.com bowl against Pitt. They even managed to play Alabama close in the Independence bowl in '01 (13-14 loss). In '04 Iowa State tied Colorado for first in the Big 12 North, and recently have won bowl games against Minnesota (yes, that one), and Miami (no, not that one).
Incedentally, in case any of you harbor a lack of ill will towards Iowa State, just know that they're the reason that Gary Barnett was fired as head coach. In '05, Iowa St used their Cyclone-powers* to halt mid-game the CU-ISU game...for several hours. The Cyclone(s) won, and CU was listless for
five years the next three games.
*an actual tornado in Ames
In '07 the middlingest head coach in Cyclone's history was let go, probably because there weren't any more Seneca Wallaces to recruit. For the next two years Gene Chizik showed that Cam Newton was all that separated him from 5-19 and a National Championship.
Now ISU has Paul Rhodes, as few 2-star recruits as they've had in the last decade, and a promising future (by their standards). They'll always get to play giant-killer to Iowa and be the CSU of the mid-west. They even got their lick in on Texas last year.
Aside from having 'state' in their names, these teams are similar in several ways. Until recently they hadn't had much success, but in the survey period they both somehow managed to play well, but then fell back on (really) hard times.
They can be dangerous, and it almost always looks bad to lose to them, even if they're legitimately good. It's a lose-lose situation similar to what we face with Colorado St, but instead of the hearts and minds of the state of Colorado on the line, it's the perception of our team within the conference (and recruiting) footprint that's at stake.
We can win our Pac-12 opener. We can't fumble three times. We can be successful. We can't repeatedly punt for 20 yards. We can beat Washington State.