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Are the Cougars a top 50 team in 2014?

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WSU improved this season and at least one publication has the Cougars continuing on the upswing.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Washington State lost it's bowl game. In dramatic and gut-wrenching fashion too. I understand the angst that game caused, but the loss has somewhat overshadowed where WSU came from and where they are going.

Athlon Sports apparently isn't too concerned about the loss and mentioned WSU among its very early 2014 rankings. A whopping 49 teams are mentioned, but who cares. When was the last time the Cougars garnered even a mention on any preseason top teams list? Athlon listed a top 30, then 19 more teams in alphabetical order so we don't know for sure where WSU is slotted. Regardless, even a No. 49 ranking would be a considerable upgrade over the 68 spot Athlon had WSU in last year's rankings.

Sometimes its good to get a little outside perspective to realize the last five minutes of the New Mexico did not erase the progress of 2013. Here's the Athlon blurb on the Cougars:

The Cougars lost a heartbreaker in the New Mexico Bowl, but Mike Leach's team is on the right track. This team returns most of its core for 2014, including quarterback Connor Halliday and receiver Gabe Marks. Expect Washington State to improve in the win column next year.

Football:

Poll: Best Pac-12 college football bowl game performance so far - ESPN
Connor Halliday, QB, Washington State: In a losing effort, Halliday threw for 410 yards and six touchdowns and was named the Offensive Player of the Game in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl. He has the unpleasant honor of being the first quarterback in bowl history to throw for six touchdowns and lose. But his effort shouldn’t be overlooked.

A Very Early College Football Top 25 for 2014 | AthlonSports.com
Washington State The Cougars lost a heartbreaker in the New Mexico Bowl, but Mike Leach’s team is on the right track. This team returns most of its core for 2014, including quarterback Connor Halliday and receiver Gabe Marks. Expect Washington State to improve in the win column next year.

Cougar Athletic Fund | Washington State University Athletics
David Knuff wore No. 98 as tight end for the Cougar football team from 1993 to 1996. The following season, Knuff’s former uniform number was not worn by any player. However, by season’s end, it was a number seemingly all Cougars were wearing.

Basketball:

Freshmen have early impact at WSU - Spokesman.com - Dec. 26, 2013
With a 6-5 record and losses to TCU and UTEP, the Cougars have not done much to pad their postseason resume during the nonconference portion of their schedule. But with a game against No. 1 Arizona in Tucson just a week away, help may be on the way.