Life in the Pac-12 North hasn't been real easy the last couple of years. And if the USA Today coaches poll -- whose preseason iteration was released this morning -- is to be believed, life isn't going to get any easier for a WSU team that is trying to get back to its first bowl in a decade.
WSU will be facing four opponents who will start the season ranked in the top 25, three of which reside in their own division: No. 3 Oregon, No. 4 Stanford, No. 24 USC and No. 25 Oregon State. Additionally, the Cougs will take on three other teams lurking on the fringes in the "others receiving votes" category: Arizona State, Arizona and Washington.
Will all those teams end up in the top 25 at some point? Probably not, but it's still fun to think that 80 percent of WSU's opponents in the Pac-12 North would have appeared in the top 25 at some point -- all it probably will take is for the three already in to beat their overmatched opponents in their openers and Washington beating No. 19 Boise State in the first game at renovated Husky Stadium.
USC plays Hawaii in week one, so it's likely the Trojans will be the Cougs' first ranked opponent of the year on Sept. 7. Stanford faces a test against ASU at home in week three, but there's a good chance the Cardinal will still be in the top five when they come to Seattle on Sept. 28. And of course there's a good chance Oregon still will be undefeated when WSU travels to Eugene to face the Ducks on Oct. 12.
One nice thing is that while the Cougs don't get the advantage of playing Colorado this season, they do avoid No. 21 UCLA. (Although Bill Connelly's laptop is much more skeptical of the Bruins than the voters are.)
Here's the full poll. Did the "coaches" (better known to the rest of us as "sports information directors") get it right with the Pac-12 teams?
|2||Ohio St. (3)||12-0||1427||NR|
|6||Texas A&M (1)||11-2||1215||5|
|Schools Dropped Out|
|No. 11 Kansas State (11-2), No. 17 Utah State (11-2), No. 20 Vanderbilt (9-4), No. 21 San Jose State (11-2), No. 22 Cincinnati (10-3), No. 24 Northern Illinois (12-2), No. 25 Tulsa (11-3).|
|Others Receiving Votes|
|Kansas State (11-2) 113; Miami (Fla.) 101; Michigan State 89; Baylor 80; Virginia Tech 65; Fresno State 62; Arizona State 51; Mississippi 32; Vanderbilt (9-4) 29; Utah State (11-2) 23; Brigham Young 20; North Carolina 19; Northern Illinois (12-2) 19; Tulsa (11-3) 9; Ohio 8; San Jose State (11-2) 8; Arizona 5; Cincinnati (10-3) 3; East Carolina 3; Kent State 3; Mississippi State 3; Washington 3; Central Florida 2; Arkansas 1; Arkansas State 1; Rutgers 1; Tennessee 1; Toledo 1.|