Usually when coaches are leading their teams into wild atmospheres, they do things like pipe in crowd noise to simulate gameday. Not Steve Sarkisian. The Washington coach, also a former BYU quarterback, went straight to bengal tiger.
The Huskies travel to Baton Rouge, La., on Saturday to play No. 3 LSU, and is a three-touchdown underdog, despite playing pretty well in their opener against San Diego State. Rather than allowing the slightest possibility that the Huskies will be intimidated by Mike VI, the 800-pounder, Sark attempted to fight back with his own tiger, one named Sheena, on loan from a game preserve and refuge in Canby, Ore.
It awaited the players at practice on Tuesday.
"The whole emphasis is just to get used to it now, so when we get down there no one is surprised or gets distracted by it," center Drew Schaefer said in the Tacoma News-Tribune. "It's to focus on the task at hand."
Of course, having Sheena around may be about as fun as things get for the Huskies this week. LSU is 6-0 against Pac-12 teams in games since 2003, and didn't have much of a history against West Coast schools before that. The Huskies, lost to the Tigers in Seattle in 2009.
Jerry Brewer of The Seattle Times broke down the separation gap between the Southeastern Conference and everyone else in his Tuesday column, pointing out that the Pac-12 is 12-11 against the SEC since 2000. However, this is a big week for the Pac-12. Seven of the 12 teams play opponents from BCS conference schools, and if the conference wants to restore some of its lost image, which I wrote about in today's Tribune, it needs to earn some wins.
One of those opportunities will come Saturday in Corvallis, when Oregon State plays Wisconsin after what coach Mike Riley called "the world's longest training camp." The Beavers' opener against Nicholls State was canceled due to Hurricane Isaac. Now, the Beavers open with a much tougher opponent from the Big Ten, leading Riley to call it "as big a nonconference game as Oregon State has ever hosted."
One of my big questions that didn't make it into today's column had to do with Stanford: After the Andrew Luck era, shouldn't the Cardinal be riding more momentum? One would think David Shaw would have been able to sell top recruits on Palo Alto while they were romping past Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. Looks like the issue, though, might be up front with the offensive line, which allowed the Cardinal to rush for just 37 yards in the second half of a too-close-for-comfort win over San Jose State.
As for what's going on down in the desert (including with Utah's first Pac-12 opponent, Arizona State), ESPN's Ted Miller has a good look at the fast-paced (and we mean fast) development of the Sun Devils and Arizona Wildcats.
Finally, check out my weekly Pac-12 power rankings. I get called a homer for ranking Utah No. 3 (I'm from Oregon, man), but in a relatively weak Pac-12, I don't see any team that is inarguably better. Share your thoughts in the comments.
Much more going on in the Pac-12 this week, check out the links at the bottom of this page. They refresh automatically as trusted news outlets around the conference update their websites.
As always, follow me on Twitter (@oramb) for faster, shorter, (sometimes) funnier updates.
— Bill Oram
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