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Holiday Bowl 2016 picks WSU Cougars from the Pac-12

The Cougs make their return to San Diego for the first time since 2003.

NCAA Football: Washington at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

What has been heavily speculated for weeks was finally made official today: The WSU Cougars are headed to the 2016 Holiday Bowl, where they are expected to take on the Big Ten’s Minnesota Golden Gophers.

The game is on December 27 and kicks off at 4 p.m. PT. It will be broadcast on ESPN.

Fans looking to purchase tickets should visit; members of the Cougar Athletic Fund will receive priority until December 5 at 6 p.m. PT. Ticket prices range from $45 for an “Upper View” seat to $135 for “Club Level 1.”

The Cougars, who finished 8-4 but 7-2 in the Pac-12, were selected in the process above Stanford, which — unlike WSU — is ranked in the CFP. The conventional line of thinking is that our fans will be ecstatic to return to San Diego for the first time since 2003. That’s when WSU knocked off No. 5 Texas in one of the most celebrated victories in program history.

That’s not the only connection to 2003; that also was the last time WSU appeared in consecutive bowl games, which the Cougars have now accomplished with their back-to-back eight-win regular seasons under Mike Leach. This also marks three bowl appearances in four seasons under Leach.

WSU benefitted in the selection process from Washington’s strong season. The Huskies’ appearance in the College Football Playoff cleared the way for two Pac-12 teams to be selected to the New Year’s Six; USC ended up ranked ahead of Colorado and was selected for the Rose Bowl, while the Buffs — who lost to the Trojans — fell to the Alamo Bowl.

The Golden Gophers also finished 8-4 this season, and their 5-4 record in the Big Ten looks pretty decent. However, they got there by beating Rutgers, Maryland, Illinois, Purdue and Northwestern. On the flip side, three of their four losses — to Penn State, Iowa, Nebraska and Wisconsin — were by a touchdown or less, and all four of those teams were ranked at the time of the matchup.