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HCA: Explaining WSU’s bowl possibilities; plus a Rivalry Saturday rooting guide

Now that the regular season is over, here’s what would be really helpful to WSU landing in the best possible bowl.

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Indiana v Michigan Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

After allowing ourselves to dream as big as we could dream, the regular season is suddenly over for the Washington State Cougars. All that’s left do now is sit around for eight days and wait to find out where we’ll land for our bowl game.

So, since we’re sitting around ... let’s talk about which results today will help us get to the best possible bowl game.

Because of Pac-12 bowl selection rules (I wrote about that a few years ago, and the rules are still the same), we have a firm grasp on what’s still on the table for WSU:

  • New Year’s Six: Peach Bowl (Atlanta, Ga., Dec. 29) or Fiesta Bowl (Glendale, Ariz., Jan. 1) or Sugar Bowl (New Orleans, La., Jan. 1)
  • Pac-12 No. 2 tie-in: Alamo Bowl (vs. Big 12 in San Antonio, Texas, Dec. 28)
  • Pac-12 No. 3 tie-in: Holiday Bowl (vs. Big Ten in San Diego, Calif., Dec. 31)
  • Pac-12 No. 4 tie-in: Redbox Bowl (vs. Big Ten in Santa Clara, Calif., Dec. 31)

WSU can’t fall past the Redbox Bowl, and for what it’s worth, even falling that far is really unlikely, which we’ll get to in a second.

If you read Jesse Cassino’s viewing guides the past few weeks, you know that for WSU to reach the College Football Playoff, we needed a lot of help in front of us in the form of highly ranked teams losing. Now, the scenario is basically flipped: We want the higher ranked teams to solidify themselves and knock down everyone around us as much as possible.

WSU is currently ranked No. 8 in the CFP, and the Cougs obviously are going to fall. How far depends on what happens around us today. And the reason that matters is because the way the New Year’s Six selection process works is pretty simple: Conference champs earn automatic bids, the highest ranked Group of 5 team earns an automatic bid, and then the remaining spots are filled out by the highest teams remaining in the CFP rankings.

Put simply: Being ranked as highly as possible in the CFP really, really matters.

Over the first four seasons, all teams ranked in the top 9 have made it to a NY6, while half of the teams ranked 10, 11 or 12 have made it, including No. 11 Washington’s at-large bid to the Fiesta Bowl last season.

So, here’s the best case scenario for WSU: All conference champs are ranked in the top 12 and the highest ranked Group of 5 team is in the top 12 and WSU is ranked in the top 12. That would ensure a NY6 bid, most likely to the Fiesta Bowl.

Here’s your viewing guide on that front. (Pac-12 specific items to follow.)

Results already in on Friday

Outside of the obvious, Friday’s results went almost as well as they could have for WSU.

  • No. 6 Oklahoma Sooners 59, No. 13 West Virginia Mountaineers 56: This was a very good result for WSU! See, like I said ... opposites. WVU now has three losses and will assuredly be ranked below WSU and unable to take a bid ahead of the Cougs.
  • No. 9 UCF Knights 38, South Florida Bulls 10: Also very good for WSU! Again, if the Knights were to drop below the top 12, the No. 12 team would not get a NY6 bid.
  • No. 14 Texas Longhorns 24, Kansas Jayhawks 17: This is ... nothing, actually. It sets up a Big 12 Championship Game next week between Oklahoma and Texas, and the only thing that potentially hurts WSU is Texas beating Oklahoma a second time.

Saturday’s games

All game times Pacific

  • 9 a.m. on Fox — No. 4 Michigan Wolverines (10-1) vs. No. 10 Ohio State Buckeyes (10-1): Go Blue! The bigger the better. A second loss for the Buckeyes has the potential to knock them below us, while a second loss for Michigan almost certainly wouldn’t do the same.
  • 9 a.m. on SEC Network — No. 5 Georgia Bulldogs (10-1) vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (7-4): Go Ramblin’ Wreck! A second loss for the Bulldogs, who are already in the SEC Championship Game, sets up the very good chance that they pick up a third loss at the hands of Bama.
  • 9 a.m. on ABC — No. 11 Florida Gators (8-3) vs. Florida State Seminoles (5-6): Tomahawk Chop! It’s possible nine-win Florida won’t move past 10-win WSU even with a victory over FSU, but let’s not take that chance.
  • 12:30 p.m. on CBS — No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (11-0) vs. Auburn Tigers (7-4): Go ... eh, really doesn’t matter, I don’t think. I suppose there’s the possibility that Bama could pick up a second loss in the SEC Championship, but I think it’s hard to imagine the Tide dropping below us, even with two losses. Besides, that also would mean that Georgia has no more than two losses and ... ok, ow, my head is starting to hurt. Actually, you know what? Go Tigers. Because screw Bama.
  • 12:30 p.m. on ABC — No. 12 Penn State Nittany Lions (8-3) vs. Maryland Terrapins (5-6): Go Terps! Same thing as Florida/FSU.
  • 4 p.m. on ESPN — No. 2 Clemson Tigers (11-0) vs. South Carolina Gamecocks (6-4): Go ... eh, really doesn’t matter, I don’t think. Same thing as Bama/Auburn.
  • 4 p.m. on ESPN2 — No. 15 Kentucky Wildcats (8-3) vs. Louisville Cardinals (2-9): Go Cards! Same thing as Florida/FS and Penn State/Maryland.
  • 4:30 p.m. on SEC Network — No. 7 LSU Tigers (9-2) vs. No. 22 Texas A&M Aggies (7-4): Gig ’em, Aggies! It’s no guarantee that a third loss — to a ranked team no less — would drop LSU below WSU given the fact that they’ve been ahead of WSU all along, but if we’re rooting, let’s root for A&M to win big anyway.

OK, on to the Pac-12

Secondary to that is what happens in the Pac-12.

I’m not going to go into how the Pac-12’s rules work here — again, if you’re really interested in understanding it, you can go read this — but if WSU ends up outside the top 12 or those NY6 at-large spots erode (because of, say, wacky things like the Northwestern Wildcats wining the Big Ten championship) and push out teams ranked 10-12, the Alamo Bowl will have first pick between:

I think it’s really, really hard to imagine the Alamo Bowl passing over WSU; the Cougs will be ranked no worse than 15 (probably closer to 10) and will be sitting there with a 10-2 record — never mind all the other things that make us attractive, such as having not played in the game since 1994, a Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback (yes, that could still happen), Mike Leach back in Texas, etc.

The alternative to WSU would be four-loss teams that will be ranked below WSU: Washington or Utah or Stanford (which, again, might not even be in play). I know self-loathing is in our DNA, but I just can’t imagine any of those teams being picked ahead of us.

But since this is a rooting guide, here’s what you’re looking for today:

  • 12 p.m. PT on Pac-12 Network — Stanford Cardinal (6-4) vs. UCLA Bruins (3-8): Go Bruins! A Stanford loss eliminates the Cardinal from being picked ahead of us for a bowl game, ensuring it’s impossible for us to land in the Redbox Bowl.
  • 7 p.m. PT on FS1 — No. 17 Utah Utes (8-3) vs. BYU Cougars (6-5): Go Other Cougars! Make the Utes as unattractive as possible, please, in the event they lose to UW in the Pac-12 Championship Game.


‘Exactly the same’ Washington State offense held in check by hard-hitting Washington defense | The Spokesman-Review
After another no-doubt Apple Cup victory, a few Washington Huskies slid headfirst on to the snowy Martin Stadium field. A few others made snow angels.

Analysis: Washington thrives in ‘random’ Apple Cup as Washington State falls short of Pac-12 North title | The Spokesman-Review
One by one, the Washington Huskies spilled from the sideline to the turf. In bright purple pants and gold helmets, they slid through the white slush covering the green turf in Pullman.

Apple Cup recap and highlights: Myles Gaskin, Washington plow past WSU in the snow | The Spokesman-Review
For the sixth straight season, the Washington State Cougars lacked the bite they needed to beat their bitter rivals. And in the 111th Apple Cup, the Washington Huskies had plenty.

TV Take: Washington State, broadcast team slip up in Apple Cup loss to Huskies | The Spokesman-Review
For those watching at home on Fox’s broadcast, the weather wasn’t a factor. It was the combination of Joe Davis, Brady Quinn, Bruce Feldman and the Fox production that made it tougher to watch.

Difference makers: Myles Gaskin runs over Washington State in snow-covered Apple Cup | The Spokesman-Review
Difference makers from Washington’s 28-15 victory over Washington State at Martin Stadium in Pullman.

Washington State’s Gardner Minshew, and his mustache, leave Martin Stadium with myriad memories | The Spokesman-Review
He took Pullman by storm, but Washington State quarterback Gardner Minshew’s final game in Pullman was doomed in the Apple Cup on Friday by a storm that only the Palouse could produce.

Washington Gets Back Into Character to Ruin Washington State and the Pac-12’s Fun - Sports Illustrated
Washington played its best game of the year just in time to spoil its rival’s season and knock the Pac-12 out of playoff consideration.

Snow Dawgs: No. 16 Washington topples No. 7 Wazzu 28-15 - KXLY
Chris Petersen walked away from the party happening in the end zone where the Apple Cup was being passed around by his players for the sixth straight year.

WATCH: Cougars express frustrations after Apple Cup loss - SWX Right Now - Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA - Nov. 23, 2018
SWX covers weather and local professional, college and high school sports in Spokane, Coeur d'Alene, Kennewick, Pasco, Richland, Yakima and surrounding cities.

Washington State’s (regular) season of dreams ends with a familiar nightmare – The Athletic
For the third straight season, a loss to Washington in the Apple Cup keeps the Cougars out of the Pac-12 Championship Game.

For Cougars, Apple Cup was familiar finish to an unexpectedly great football season | The Seattle Times
WSU was a surprise contender in the Pac-12 this season. But its loss in the Apple Cup, its sixth consecutive, wasn't so surprising.

Huskies topple Cougars 28-15 for sixth straight Apple Cup win | Q13 FOX News
PULLMAN, Wash. — Myles Gaskin broke free for an 80-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter, and No. 16 Washington won its second Pac-12 North Division title in three years, beating No. 7 Washington State 28-15 on a snowy Friday night.

PHOTOS: Cougs lose to the Huskies in 111th Apple Cup |
PHOTOS: Cougs lose to the Huskies in 111th Apple Cup

Friday Night Four: Apple Cup special edition (Washington wins the North, playoff door slams shut) - The Mercury News
Washington beat WSU in the Apple Cup to extend its dominance in the rivalry and eliminate the Cougars, and the Pac-12 , from the playoff race.

Washington beats Washington State for 6th-straight time -
Washington has now beaten Washington State six-straight times.

Huskies beat Washington State 28-15 | The News Tribune
No. 16 Washington took a 14-0 lead and the held off No. 8 Washington State 28-15 in a wild, snowy Apple Cup.

WATCH: Washington State band honors Washington band in amazing way after bus crash - Saturday Down South

Cougars marching band performs Husky fight song in rival band's absence - Newsweek
Cougars marching band performs Husky fight song in rival band's absence following UW bus accident.

Assistant Coach Trashes Opposing Head Coach Following Rivalry Game - The Spun
After the game, Washington’s co-defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake had a few choice words for enigmatic cougars head coach Mike Leach.