The Washington State Cougars are going somewhere for the holidays, and despite the regular season coming to a close we're still not quite sure where. Among the bowl projections, there appears to be two very likely destinations and another with an outside shot. We can't, however, quite accurately project where the Cougs will go bowling thanks to a logjam of teams near the top of the Pac-12 bowl selection order, as well as a fairly arbitrary selection process.
First, refresh yourself on how the Pac-12 picks bowl teams. We're now assured of Stanford in the Rose Bowl, and the College Football Playoff is already set. Our hopes for Stanford getting into the playoff, thus bumping Oregon to the Rose Bowl and moving everyone else up a slot, were dashed, but things are still looking … okay for the Cougs.
Let's run down the projections:
There's a split here, and it's interesting to watch. On one hand, many of the national bowl projections have the Pac-12 staying mostly in order, with Stanford going to the Rose Bowl, Oregon to the Alamo Bowl and then USC going to the Holiday Bowl. But as we've mentioned before, there's a big mess of teams after Oregon, and the bowls are going to have to figure out what matchups and traveling fanbases fit best.
All of this is subjective, of course, because bowls aren't as simple as drawing down the list, especially with ties. And this is where the split comes in: Move west, towards the Pac-12, and more folks are talking Washington State to the Holiday Bowl.
Holiday Bowl remains split on WSU/USC (if Stanford wins), per source. Whichever team Holiday doesn't take likely headed for Sun.— Kyle Bonagura (@BonaguraESPN) December 3, 2015
Just spoke with Holiday Bowl exec director Mark Neville. "Likely between USC and WSU with an outside shot for Utah." They'll meet at 11 am.— Kyle Bonagura (@BonaguraESPN) December 6, 2015
So what's happening? The likely Big Ten pick for the Holiday Bowl is Wisconsin -- Jason Kirk has Wisconsin vs. Washington State for what it's worth. So now we're playing matchups...
Sounds like if #WSU gets the Holiday Bowl, it will be due to Bill Moos' lobbying. Committee members were very impressed by his pitch.— Jacob Thorpe (@JacobThorpeSR) December 6, 2015
All of this is to say who knows. The playoff rankings come out at 9 am PT, and then the Holiday Bowl committee will meet to make its decision.
And if the Cougs don't get picked by the Holiday Bowl...
Hello, Sun Bowl
This is where most of the national media has the Cougs. Both Mark Schlabach and Brett McMurphy have Washington State heading to El Paso for Christmas. Stewart Mandel also has the Cougs in El Paso, and all three have Miami as the opponent.
And maybe Las Vegas?
A lone Las Vegas voice speaks up, with Jerry Palm placing the Cougs in the Royal Purple Bowl against BYU. We've explained why this is not ideal: The early game cuts into practice being the big one. BYU's coach just up and left on Friday, too, which isn't a great situation heading into a bowl.
Las Vegas also has a chance for a BYU-Utah bowl game, which is about as attractive a matchup you can get, short of Texas-Texas A&M. If there's a chance for Vegas reps to make deals that allow a Holy War Bowl to happen, you can expect they're lobbying hard for it.
So that's what on the table on Sunday. It all comes down to how the dominoes fall and which bowls prefer which team. Remember this: The bowl process is politicking and wheeling and dealing. There's flexibility in the picks, and athletic directions lobby hard. Moos has been doing this since October.
#WSU athletic director Bill Moos is spending halftime holding court with reps from the Alamo and Holiday bowls.— Jacob Thorpe (@JacobThorpeSR) October 24, 2015
Now we'll find out if it pays off