We still need to wait about a week to figure out where Washington State is going for the holidays, but there are plenty of guesses to hold you over. The Cougars have been assured of a bowl game for weeks, and the only question has been whether they'll play in an upper-tier Pac-12 Bowl or slide down in the selection process. The Pac-12 is an absolute logjam behind Stanford, and the bowl selection committees have some decisions on their hands.
The Apple Cup didn't help. A win would've put Washington State in a clear position to end up in the range of the Holiday Bowl. Whereas bowl projections before the Apple Cup had a worst case of the Sun Bowl for the Cougars, now the Royal Purple Bowl in Las Vegas is in play. And if you believe this week's projections, Las Vegas is likely.
As a reminder, here are the different scenarios leading to any bowl between the Alamo Bowl (top) and Royal Purple Bowl (bottom) for the Cougs. The sweet spot in here is the Holiday Bowl/Foster Farms Bowl range, with the former probably being the most preferred bowl.
We're going to break these out by bowl, in order of selection.
Pac-12 bowl projections (Stan beats USC) Rose: Stanford Alamo: Oregon Holiday: WSU FF: USC Sun: Utah Vegas: UCLA Cactus: Cal or ASU— Kyle Bonagura (@BonaguraESPN) November 29, 2015
This would mean the Holiday Bowl really likes the Cougs, and picks them over USC, UCLA and Utah. This is what you hope for.
Foster Farms Bowl
Timing and travel wise, this isn't bad. The bad news here? You're going to end up playing a bottom-tier, maybe 5-7 team that gets in on APR (yay student-athletes!). Anyway, here's one projection based on USC winning the Pac-12 Championship.
If USC beats Stanford, would expect changes to be: Rose: USC Alamo: Oregon Holiday: Stanford FF: WSU https://t.co/rA66HgONB9— Kyle Bonagura (@BonaguraESPN) November 29, 2015
El Paso on Christmas. Still sounds like a blast. This is the game that's tough to get to, and tough on timing. Good news? Wazzu probably gets a decent-enough-to-make-a-fun-game ACC team (maybe!).
That's where Jason Kirk at SBNation.com has the Cougs. He made a Miami-Washington State matchup which, just basing it off Miami's name, seems fine. If we're adding in craziness, Miami did have that whole lateral thing, too.
What I'm saying is Miami fans spent the year buying plane banners pleading for the school to fire its coach but you can always say "We beat Miami" if you pull it off.
Royal Purple Bowl
Again, a trip to Vegas is neat. A trip to Vegas for one of the first bowls of the year against a Mountain West team is not as neat. This means less practice time for the team and a hangover that won't leave you til Christmas.
At ESPN, Mark Schlabach and Brett McMurphy have Washington State in the Royal Purple Bowl, and each has the Cougs facing San Diego State. It's the Sterk Bowl. Jerry Palm has the same matchup.
For football and long-term health reasons, please not Vegas.
Everything below Las Vegas is mathematically out of play. And you don't want to go to the Cactus Bowl anyway.
Chatting with a player post ASU about bowl. Player: "I don't want to go to Cactus Bowl and get a hairdryer..."— Nam Le (@AGuyNamedNam) November 29, 2015
What does these projections mean?
Remember that we don't know what exactly is going through the heads of the people making decisions for bowls. We can guess -- how many fans will travel; will it be an exciting matchup; has an eligible team played there recently -- but we don't really know. It's not based on record alone, and is more subjective than that.
This is where being very bad for a very long time might help the Cougs. They're new and shiny, and have an exciting offense with Luke Falk at the helm. Yes, they went bowling in New Mexico two years ago, but there's still the shine of "HEY WE'RE BOWLING THIS IS AWESOME LETS GO" for Washington State fans. And that might help here. Or it might not!
There still remains a decent chance the Cougs end up in a very nice place for the holidays. There's also still a decent chance they fall all the way down to the bottom of the cluster of 6-3 teams and UCLA. In that case, please don't lose all your money playing blackjack.