The bowl situation is incredibly fluid, but with just one full week to go in the 2015 college football regular season, a measure of clarity regarding bowl bids should arrive by the time the dust settles on Sunday morning.
Depending on how things shake out, WSU could end up anywhere from the Las Vegas Bowl ... to the Rose Bowl. (Really. You'll see why in just a minute.)
Since this is all pretty complicated -- you can read all about how the Pac-12 picks its bowl teams here -- you probably want to know how you should be rooting this weekend, presuming you want WSU to end up in the best bowl possible. But before we get to that, here's a handy-dandy single table listing of the Pac-12 teams who are either bowl eligible or can get bowl eligible:
With that, here we gooooooo ...
Root for WSU to beat UW in the Apple Cup (12:30 p.m. Friday, FOX). Duh.
Root for Stanford to destroy Notre Dame (4:30 p.m. Saturday, FOX) and blow out USC/UCLA in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Stanford's performance over its final two games really is the linchpin to WSU getting into the best bowl possible. As you can see above, the Cardinal are currently ranked No. 9 in the College Football Playoff. Most people left Stanford's playoff hopes for dead, but as it turns out ...
With only four teams between the Cardinal and a CFP semifinal berth -- one of them being Notre Dame, ranked No. 6 in the CFP -- it's not that crazy to think that three other teams in front of them could falter and Stanford sneaks into the CFP. Heck, it's not even nuts to think that Stanford could vault some 1-loss teams with a strong finish. The committee clearly likes the Cardinal.
Here's why this is a big deal: If Stanford makes it into the CFP, the Rose Bowl is left without its Pac-12 participant. And because the Pac-12 has an agreement with the Rose Bowl, the Rose Bowl gets to pick a Pac-12 replacement.
Root for Oregon to lose to Oregon State (1 p.m. Friday, FS1). Hey, I didn't say everything on this list was plausible. I just said this is how you should root. And if WSU beats UW and Oregon loses to OSU, the Cougars are most likely the next highest ranked Pac-12 team after Stanford in the CFP at the end of the season. So if Stanford can actually make the CFP, that probably would lead to the Rose Bowl -- I am not making this up -- selecting WSU.
If you question whether the Rose Bowl would pick the Cougs, I'd submit that the Rose Bowl would almost certainly pick the team with the lowest number in front of its name in order to generate the best appearing matchup on New Year's. That would almost certainly be the Cougs, who are the next closest team to the Ducks. But just to be sure ...
Root for USC to beat UCLA (12:30 p.m. Saturday, ABC), then root for USC to get blown out by Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship Game. There's always the possibility that UCLA could pass WSU in the CFP rankings. If we were talking about the traditional polls, poll momentum would almost certainly ensure WSU wouldn't get passed if the Cougs secure a win over UW. Unfortunately (in this case, anyway), the CFP has shown it will sort of make the rules up as it goes along.
If UCLA looks real good on Saturday, then gives Stanford all it can handle, it's not implausible to think the CFP committee would somehow have the Bruins leap the Cougs -- we already know that head-to-head results don't much matter, given that WSU is sitting three spots behind Oregon at the moment.
Root for Utah to lose to Colorado (11:30 a.m. Saturday, Pac-12 Network). Again, not real plausible, but still - if there's a two-game cushion between the WSU and Utah, the Cougs cannot get passed over in the bowl selection process in favor of the Utes.
But What If That Doesn't Happen?
OK, so that's the best case scenario -- as crazy as it sounds, if all of that happens, WSU probably gets picked for the Rose Bowl. THE ROSE BOWL.
Sadly (and obviously), it's not real likely all of that is going to happen -- OSU beating Oregon is almost certainly a non-starter. So, let's look at other possibilities. For each bowl, I've listed a set of results that would probably lead WSU to end up in that game -- assuming the Cougs win the Apple Cup.
(I could go through scenarios where WSU has lost the Apple Cup ... but what fun would that be? Also, I don't particularly want to think about that. But if you must know ... it seems highly probable we'd end up in the Sun Bowl.)
One note: This all assumes Stanford wins the Pac-12. If UCLA/USC beats Stanford and heads to the Rose Bowl ... that's bad news for the Cougs, since it seems that UCLA/USC would generally be a lower choice than WSU in most scenarios. If that happens, you can just look at all the scenarios below and bump the Cougs down one bowl.
Oregon almost certainly will destroy OSU, so that means if everything else that's listed in the "perfect" scenario happens, the Ducks will be the choice for the Rose and WSU likely becomes the choice for the Alamo.
The great news here for WSU is that UCLA went to the Alamo Bowl last year. So even if the Bruins and Cougs are seen as comparable, WSU likely will get the nod to avoid a repeat trip. USC technically could be the pick if the Trojans beat UCLA before losing in the Pac-12 Championship game, but the Cougs would have a sizable advantage in the CFP rankings, and perception matters in the conference's second-most-visible bowl game. There will be a good Big 12 team on the opposite sideline, so it's likely the Alamo goes with the next best team.
The other thing is this: Anything that gets two teams into the New Year's Six leads to this, whether that's Stanford getting into the CFP, or Oregon somehow (through chaos) getting ranked high enough in the CFP (top 10 or 11) to get an at-large bid to the Fiesta Bowl or something, or Stanford beating Notre Dame then losing in the Pac-12 Championship Game but still being ranked high enough to get into a New Year's Six.
This is the same as the scenario above, but with only one team making it to the New Year's Six. Stanford goes to the Rose, Oregon heads to the Alamo, and WSU heads to the Hol ... wait, will the Holiday really take WSU ahead of UCLA if it beats USC -- a Southern California team that didn't go to San Diego last year? Things start getting more murky at this point. USC/UCLA would be eligible, because they'd be only one game behind WSU, and although USC would be unlikely because it played in the game last year ... well, UCLA is a tough call. And we just don't know what that committee will be thinking. We'd like to think they remember how we painted the town Crimson in 2003 ... but maybe proximity/name brand recognition will be a bigger deal to them.
So, GO TROJANS probably applies here -- USC beats UCLA and then loses in the Pac-12 Championship to ensure that neither USC nor UCLA are ranked.
Oh, and I don't see where Utah offers anything more than WSU, and WSU would be higher ranked, so I don't think it makes sense that the committee would go in that direction, even though they could take the Utes, presuming they beat Colorado.
Foster Farms Bowl
Take the scenario from the Holiday Bowl and imagine that the Holiday decides they'd rather have UCLA/USC. Consider what I already said about a WSU/Utah dilemma, and it's pretty easy to see WSU being the choice here unless the Foster Farms bowl wants to reach down for the USC/UCLA loser.
This is most likely the lowest bowl in which WSU would end up. WSU can finish no lower than a three-way tie for third, and the Sun Bowl is obligated to take the highest team remaining in the standings, which means if the four teams tied or ahead of WSU in the standings are picked ahead of the Cougs, they're heading to El Paso.
Las Vegas Bowl
In the unlikely event the Foster Farms Bowl decides it wants to reach down for the USC/UCLA loser and the Sun Bowl decides it would rather have Utah than WSU, this is where the Cougs would end up.
This is pretty darn unlikely too -- WSU would have to lose, ASU would have to beat Cal, and both the Holiday and Foster Farms would have to reach down for the UCLA/USC loser and ASU. Not impossible, I guess.
There you go. If you think I've missed something, let me know in the comments -- I've gone over the scenarios a bunch of times, but I'm not foolproof.