With the regular season over and only a handful of conference championships remaining, we can start to get a better idea of where the Washington State Cougars may be going for the holidays. A loss in the Apple Cup hurt, but the Cougars still have a good shot to end up at a solid bowl thanks to a 6-3 finish in the Pac-12.
Below are the standings sorted by Pac-12 record. Remember, the bowls throw out overall records and select solely based on where a team finished in its conference. CFP rankings are from last week and will be updated when new rankings are out.
As a reminder, here's how the Pac-12 bowl selection process works.
Good things that happened
Stanford beat Notre Dame. You want Stanford to finish as high as possible in the rankings, and to hopefully sneak into the College Football Playoff. That would move everyone up a bowl, and set the Cougars up nicely in the selection process. Step 1 was beating Notre Dame. Step 2 is running through the Pac-12 title game and rooting for some chaos.
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ things that happened
USC beat UCLA. Could be good in that it knocks UCLA down a peg in the loss column. Could be bad because of a reported Alamo Bowl infatuation with USC, which throws everything off.
Bad things that happened
Oregon beat Oregon State (but struggled!). An Oregon loss would've helped separate the Ducks and Cougs, but that didn't happen and wasn't really expected to (good job giving it a run, though, Beavers).
Utah beat Colorado. Can't underestimate the Buffs in a rivalry game, and they almost nudged Utah to three-straight losses to end the season.
[The Apple Cup never happened so this space is empty]
What are the options?
Probably still in play, somehow. This is the scenario:
1. Stanford wallops USC in the Pac-12 Championship.
2. UNC and Florida win for Team Chaos (Iowa/Michigan State winner should get in either way)
3. Stanford sneaks into the playoff
4. Oregon to the Rose Bowl
5. Alamo picks between USC, UCLA, Utah and WSU, and takes WSU.
This is probably the one everyone wants, due to the history, the location and the timing. It all works out perfectly. So what does WSU need here?
IF STANFORD MAKES THE PLAYOFF
2. Oregon to the Rose Bowl
3. Alamo Bowl picks USC/UCLA/Utah over WSU.
4. Holiday Bowl picks WSU over the pile of teams the Alamo Bowl didn't pick
IF STANFORD MISSES THE PLAYOFF
1. Stanford to the Rose Bowl, Oregon/USC/Utah/UCLA over WSU to the Alamo Bowl.
2. Holiday Bowl goes with the traveling fans and picks WSU over the teams the Alamo Bowl didn't take.
Pretty simple, actually, and there's indications that the Holiday Bowl wants the Cougs. This is also a reminder that the Holiday Bowl had USC last year, and may not want to double up.
Foster Farms Bowl
Next up on the wish list for most, due to relatively easy travel. The day after Christmas timing isn't the best, but it's a chance to take on a Power 5 team in the Bay Area. Ways to get there:
1. Stanford beats USC
2. Stanford to the Rose Bowl. Oregon/USC to the Alamo Bowl. USC/Utah/Oregon to the Holiday Bowl.
3. Foster Farms Bowl picks WSU over whichever team isn't going to San Diego.
1. Stanford to the playoff
2. Oregon in the Rose Bowl
3. USC/Utah/UCLA over WSU for the Alamo Bowl
4. Whoever the Alamo Bowl over WSU in the Holiday Bowl
5. Foster Farms picks WSU over the the remaining team.
1. USC beats Stanford
2. USC to the Rose Bowl, Stanford to the Alamo Bowl, Oregon/Utah/UCLA to the Holiday Bowl
4. Foster Farms picks between whoever is left from the Holiday Bowl pile, and takes WSU
I'm sure El Paso is great at Christmas, but it's also going to be hard to travel to for most.
1. Stanford doesn't make the playoff
2. Everyone else gets picked before WSU in the above scenarios, and the Sun Bowl takes the Cougs over the last remaining team from the 6-3/5-4 pile.
1. Stanford makes the playoff
2. WSU is the last 6-3/5-4 team selected
Las Vegas Bowl
Still in play, depending on how things shake out. If Stanford makes the playoff, this is not in play. You don't want Vegas, mostly due to lost practices because the bowl is so early. Yes, I know it's Vegas and I know you like booze and gambling.
1. Stanford misses the playoff
2. Stanford/USC/UCLA/Utah/Oregon are all selected by bowls ahead of WSU.
You'll sense a trend in all of this. It's up to the bowl committees to make choices, and the Cougars have put down quite the resume. They're part of a large logjam, sure, but they've also been an exciting football team that puts up points for a large chunk of the year. They're coming in hot, having the best season they've had in a decade, and doing so with fans that are excited again.
So this is where Bill Moos earns his money. Bowls are about shaking hands and kissing babies. It's why bowl representatives are fanned out across the country at games during the season. Remember this?
#WSU athletic director Bill Moos is spending halftime holding court with reps from the Alamo and Holiday bowls.— Jacob Thorpe (@JacobThorpeSR) October 24, 2015
Moos' job is to convince these upper-tier bowls that the Cougs will travel heavily, are fired up for the game, and that the team itself will bring the game publicity and points. Do that and you're going somewhere nice for the holidays.