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HCA: Looking back at WSU’s history in the CFP and BCS polls

Just how rare is Washington State’s number 8 ranking in school history?

NCAA Football: Washington State at Stanford Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday night, Washington State entered the first College Football Playoff rankings at 8th in the nation. That placement is the highest for WSU since the Playoffs began back in 2014.

But if you include the old system, the Bowl Championship Series, Washington State has reached this air before. I decided to take a look back at both the BCS and CFP polls to remember the good old days and recap the rankings from the past.


BCS Peak: 8
AP Peak: 9
Season Result: 10-2 (2nd in Pac-10)

After missing out on the BCS poll every year since its inception in 1998, the Cougs finally made their first appearance in 2001. The Cougs appeared in every poll this season, topping out at number 8 in the country after their win over then 9th ranked UCLA in November. In the end, WSU’s two losses would come to eventual Pac-10 champion Oregon and UW before settling for a Sun Bowl berth against Purdue.


BCS Peak: 3
AP Peak: 3
Season Result: 10-3 (1st in Pac-10)

2002 was the first season Washington State really garnered national championship attention. The Cougs took a number 3 ranking into the Apple Cup, with a chance to make an impact nationally. But the Huskies came out on top in a controversial game that many WSU faithful would like to forget.

Luckily for Coug fans, WSU prevailed the next week against UCLA to seal a trip back to the Rose Bowl. It was a great season, and one that would seal Mike Price’s departure for Alabama.


BCS Peak: 8
AP Peak: 6
Season Result: 10-3 (2nd in Pac-10)

The first season under new head coach Bill Doba went better than many had expected. After entering the season unranked, Washington State took 16th ranked Notre Dame to overtime in a loss on the road, before upsetting 17 ranked Colorado in Boulder the next week.

Washington State would climb as high as 8th in the BCS poll, before a loss at 3rd ranked USC knocked them back down. They would finish the season 2nd in the conference, behind the Trojans. WSU would head to the Holiday Bowl and knock off the 6th ranked Texas Longhorns.


Welcome to the dark ages of Cougar football. The team only entered the AP poll or BCS rankings once during this time — the AP ranked them 25 for a week in 2006 when they were 6-3, right before starting a three-game slide — and rarely even entered the national consciousness. The CFP rankings were introduced in 2014, and the Cougs were shutout there as well.

Let’s quickly move past these years, shall we?


CFP Peak: 20
AP Peak: 20
Season Result: 9-4 (3rd in Pac-12 North)

For the first time in 12 seasons, Washington State returned to the national rankings in 2015. After a November win over number 18 UCLA, the Cougs made their CFP ranking debut at 23. They would eventually climb up to 20 until an Apple Cup loss knocked them out of the rankings for good. The team would finish 9-4, 3rd place in the Pac-12, and top Miami in the Sun Bowl.


CFP Peak: 20
AP Peak: 20
Season Result: 8-5 (2nd in Pac-12 North)

After their win over Cal in November, the Cougs jumped up to number 20 in both the AP and CFP rankings. But it was all down hill from there. The team lost two straight to highly ranked Colorado and Washington squads before laying an egg against Minnesota in the Holiday Bowl.


CFP Peak: 13
AP Peak: 8
Season Result: 9-4 (3rd in Pac-12 North)

Ah yes, remember last season? The Friday night upset in Martin Stadium over 5th ranked USC (in the AP poll) pushed Washington State to new heights. The team took a number 8 ranking in the AP poll into Berkeley on a Friday night and got demolished by the Bears in mid-October. After a win over Colorado and a loss at Arizona, Washington State would debut at number 25 in the first CFP rankings in late October.

The team would rise as high as 13 in the CFP rankings before yet another Apple Cup loss knocked them back to Earth. Another trip to the Holiday Bowl (and another disappointing showing) would knock them back even further into the Earth.


CFP Peak: 8 (First Rankings Released Tuesday)
AP Peak: 10
Standings: 7-1 (Currently 1st Pac-12 North)

So here we are now. The last time the Cougs were ranked this high in the AP poll, they suffered an absolutely crushing loss to Cal... And that thought terrifies me heading into Saturday.

(Note: Special shout out to Sports Reference and their rankings database for making this article possible)


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