Among the most common storylines weaved through the 2011 Cougar Football season has been the question, "To Bowl, or not to Bowl?" Six wins and a bowl game has been a magic number for several reasons. It is always interesting to find any sort of predictor that will tell us whether or not the Washington State Football team can scratch and claw to bowl eligibility.
I spend a lot of time each week looking at the NCAA Rankings and statistics produced by Football Outsiders. If you read my previews, you are assuredly accustomed to seeing the "S&P" ranking created by SB Nation's own Bill Connelly. The other ranking on FO that I like to view is the Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI). FEI takes a look at every possession and determines how successful each of those were. Like any good sports statistic, the end result is then adjusted for opponent. You will definitely see these numbers more later in the season when they start publishing more in-depth stuff on offense and defense.
First, one large caveat. This numbers aren't at their best this early in the season. The small sample size shows some pretty interesting rankings, but it is always fun to have your preconceived notions challenged by empirical means. As of now, the Washington State Cougars are ranked pretty lowly in FEI, 80th to be exact The rankings are still impacted by preseason predictions and will continue to be until Week 7 of the season. It is important to note that FEI ignores FCS games, so if you head over there and notice the Cougs' record is a little off, that is why.
Even though Wazzu is ranked below the likes of New Mexico State and Tulsa (and curiously one spot of ahead of Baylor!) there is still something of interest to take from these numbers. That lies in the category "Predicted FBS wins." WSU is currently predicted for 4.5 FBS wins including the one they already have. As mentioned above, most are looking for six wins on the season. Those 4.5 predicted wins plus the FCS win over Idaho State puts the Cougs right on the bubble of bowl contention.
So what do you think? After three games (and especially after the SDSU game) do you think WSU has what it takes to get to bowl eligibilty? Where do you see those remaining wins coming from? This weekend's match-up with Colorado seems to be one of the bigger games on the schedule when it comes to achieving bowl nirvana. Obviously these stats think we can beat some people. Answer the poll and give your opinions in the comments.