The question of where the Washington State Cougars will end up for their 2015 bowl game should gain a lot of clarity today with the results of the various conference championship games.
Presuming you're interested in WSU getting into the best possible bowl game, you have very clear rooting interests in most of today's games. This is your guide.
Before getting on with the specifics, here's the working assumption: Getting Stanford into the College Football Playoff and out of the Pac-12 bowl selection process is great for WSU. Here's the current CFP top 12, which is the number of teams that are generally relevant to this discussion:
|1||Clemson||12-0||No. 10 North Carolina|
|2||Alabama||11-1||No. 18 Florida|
|4||Iowa||12-0||No. 5 Michigan State|
|5||Michigan State||11-1||No. 4 Iowa|
|6||Ohio State||11-1||Season finished|
|7||Stanford||10-2||No. 20 USC|
|8||Notre Dame||10-2||Season finished|
|9||Florida State||10-2||Season finished|
|10||North Carolina||11-1||No. 1 Clemson|
What we're looking for is any combination of results that would cause Stanford to leap up three spots and into the top four, which would then cause the Cardinal to vacate their Rose Bowl bid, leading the Rose Bowl to select a Pac-12 team as a replacement -- likely Oregon. This opens up the possibility of WSU getting selected for the Alamo Bowl, and even if the Alamo Bowl goes with someone such as USC, this scenario makes it even more likely the Cougars get selected for the Holiday Bowl. (Which is already a good possibility, regardless of today's results.)
So here's how you should be rooting, in chronological order today.
Root for Florida to beat Alabama in the SEC Championship (1 p.m. PT, CBS). We need to get the Tide out of the top four, and this is the way to do it. Pretty simple. It probably doesn't much matter the manner in which the loss happens, either. Just lose. It's hard to imagine a two-loss team that isn't a conference champ being rated ahead of a two-loss conference champ.
Root for Stanford to beat USC in the Pac-12 Championship (4:45 p.m. PT, ESPN). This, of course, has to happen. And the more impressive the victory, the better -- you might recall Ohio State leaping up into the top four last season after whipping Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship. OSU and Wisconsin each were rated a little higher than Stanford and USC, but still. Also, an impressive victory by Stanford has the side benefit of making the Trojans potentially less attractive to the Holiday Bowl in the event that Stanford doesn't make it into the top four.
GO TAR HEELS
Root for North Carolina to beat Clemson in the ACC Championship (5 p.m. PT, ABC). And this is where we start to wonder if any of this even matters. If Clemson loses, that's good. If North Carolina wins ... will the Tar Heels just pass the Cardinal anyway? They'll only have one loss, they'll be a conference champ, they'll have just knocked off the No. 1 team. Tough to say. There's even a chance Stanford gets in with only an Alabama loss, although that also opens up the possibility of a second Big Ten team (Ohio State? Iowa/Michigan State loser?) getting into the top 4.
But in the event the Crimson Tide don't lose, a loss by Clemson is really the only other possible way in.
GO HUGE MARGIN OF VICTORY
Root for either Iowa or Michigan State to win huge in the Big Ten Championship (5:17 p.m., FOX). It probably makes no difference who wins this game, as the winner is going to be in the top four. But if one team wins big, it probably removes whatever temptation there is for the committee to perhaps just put both of them in the playoffs.
But what if Stanford loses?
All is not lost! Then you're rooting for the Cardinal to somehow stay in the top 10 or 11 in order to get placed by the CFP committee in a New Year's Six game.
In that case, these things probably are good: Alabama winning (keeps Florida way from top 10), Stanford losing close (minimal drop), Clemson winning big (UNC drops away from the top 10), Iowa winning in a rout (maybe Sparty drops out of the top 10).
For what it's worth, the result of Baylor -- currently losing to Texas(!) -- probably doesn't matter; the Sugar Bowl has an identical arrangement to the Rose Bowl, in which it gets to select a replacement for the Big 12 champ, so it's either Baylor being selected for the game as a top 11 team (with a win), or it's Oklahoma State being selected from outside the top 11, effectively reducing the available New Year's Six at large bids to the top 10 teams.
Honestly, it's not real likely Stanford gets into the playoff or stays in the top 10 of the CFP for that at-large bid to a New Year's Six bowl. But what fun is that?