As it was in 2013, it took until nearly the last possible minute, but the Washington State Cougars are eligible for the postseason. Granted, it was a little stressful and actually caused a blood vessel to pop in my eye. No matter though, your Cougars are heading to a bowl game for a school-record extending fifth consecutive season. That’s pretty freakin’ awesome!
It means we can officially talk about where the Cougs will be headed in the postseason and since they’re at the bottom of the Pac-12 bowl table, a lot of it will depend on how the teams at the top finish. There’s plenty of uncertainty at the top, especially with the possibility of the Utah Utes finishing the season in the playoffs. So lets try to sort it all out!
We’ll start with a reminder of the Pac-12’s bowl tie-ins, which will not look like this come 2020. All times are Pacific.
- Rose Bowl: January 1, 2 p.m. on ESPN vs. Big Ten
- Alamo Bowl: December 31, 4:30 p.m. on ESPN vs. Big 12
- Holiday Bowl: December 27, 5 p.m. on FS1 vs. Big Ten
- Redbox Bowl: December 30, 1 p.m. on FOX vs. Big Ten
- Sun Bowl: December 31, 11 a.m. on CBS vs. ACC/Notre Dame
- Las Vegas Bowl: December 21, 4:30 p.m. on ABC vs. Mountain West
- Cheez-It Bowl: December 27, 7:15 p.m. on ESPN vs. Big 12
Now, here’s where it all gets a little complex. Jeff’s laid out a superb explainer back in 2015 and things haven’t even changed a bit. Here are the very quick and dirty Cliff notes though:
- The Pac-12 Champion will end up in the Rose Bowl or CFP if they qualify (the Pac-12 runner-up will take the champion’s place in the Rose Bowl if they end up in in the CFP).
- The Alamo, Holiday and Redbox Bowls can pick from any of the teams that have the best remaining records and those within a loss.
- The remaining bowls must take the teams in order, according to how they stack up in a hypothetical division-less Pac-12 but can choose between those with the same record.
Generally the Alamo, Holiday and Redbox bowls will take the teams with better records as those fans will tend to travel. As you saw in Jeff’s post though, on some rare occasions, those bowls will flex their “draft selection” muscle and take the teams they’d rather have. That’s where the politicking by your athletic director and school president can come in handy as well as they grease the wheels of bowl reps for better placement.
So how do things stack up right now? Before we look, remember: the bowls do not care about “standings”, i.e. tiebreakers that would stack one team on top of another in traditional standings, just your conference win-loss record, essentially putting you into pods. Here are those hypothetical standings as of right now:
Week 15 Pac-12 Bowl Standings
It’s a little bit of a mess! The Arizona State Sun Devils and California Golden Bears seem likely to win next week, vaulting the loser of the Apple Cup ... but that might not make a difference. More on that in a second. If the Utes make it into the CFP, the Oregon Ducks head to the Rose Bowl and then the Pac-12 actually doesn’t have enough bowl eligible teams to fill their bowl slots unless the Oregon State Beavers or Colorado Buffaloes pull off a miracle. Then again, if the Buffs do somehow beat Utah, the Utes aren’t going to the CFP and the conference now has too many teams that are eligible and someone will need to hunt for a landing spot.
Like I said, a mess!
But here’s the weird thing: The Cougs could still go as high as the Holiday, believe it or not, thanks to that crazy logjam at 3-5 and depending on whether Utah makes it to the CFP. Utah in the CFP, Oregon and USC locked into the Rose and Alamo ... the Holiday gets to choose from literally everyone else who is bowl eligible because they’ll all be within one game of each other in the standings. Same with Redbox. Things could get locked in after that depending on who was selected, but still ... messy.
And the weirdest thing of all is that the result of the Apple Cup doesn’t really lock anything in — at least, not right away. Sure, a win would make WSU more attractive, and we can assume a loss means the more prestigious bowls would be unlikely to reach down for the Cougs. With a loss, WSU also could sink all the way to the Cheez-It Bowl!
There are really too many scenarios to explore, so let’s just leave it at this: It seems like a win in the Apple Cup means we’re likely heading to El Paso, while a loss means we’re probably spending the weekend before Christmas betting the family holiday fund on black at the roulette table.
SB Nation: Las Vegas Bowl
I really, really, reeeeeeeeally don’t want to go to a stadium and city the Boise State Broncos are comfortable in but this is the only game I can make it to with my work schedule so, screw it, SEE YOU AT THE BLACKJACK TABLE.
ESPN: Las Vegas or Sun Bowl
Again, here we see the difference in what the ESPN experts think of the Apple Cup outcome. Although our other football team already dispatched of the Virginia Cavaliers so why not the American football team?
CBS: Sun Bowl
A football game between the Wake Fores Demon Deacons and the Cougs seems ... not superb! But then again, the ACC is the only conference worse than the Pac-12 this year so the game will probably be a turd anyway.
Stadium: Sun Bowl
Jerry Palm and Brett McMurphy apparently share the same brain waves.
College Football News: Las Vegas Bowl
A game in Las Vegas against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors? INJECT IT INTO MY VEINS.