The Early Glimpse, plus WSU bowl prospects

COUGFANS ALREADY KNOW the good news -- the Cougars are riding high again following a solid performance during last Saturday's 24-17 win at Arizona. Now for a bit of bad news. You know that bowl berth Washington State so covets? It may take more than the minimum six wins for the Cougars to make it happen.

You can thank USC, which may have scotched the Pac-12's hope to land two BCS bowl berths when the Trojans defeated Stanford 20-17. The Cardinal remains in the hunt for a BCS at-large berth, but let's face it -- there are sexier options and more rabid fan bases out there than Stanford. That is a priority over landing the best team for those on BCS bowl committees.

If, in fact, the Pac-12 gets just one BCS berth (the automatic Rose Bowl, going to the winner of the Pac-12 title game), only seven league teams are guaranteed to advance to postseason play. The Pac-12 is contracted to play in the BCS, Alamo, Holiday, Sun, Las Vegas, Fight Hunter and New Mexico bowls.

Already, eight Pac-12 teams have six or more wins this season. Should Washington State win one of its final two games, that makes nine. With four wins and two games left to play, Utah or Colorado also has a shot at six wins, (they play one another on Nov. 30 so only one can potentially get there.)

Obviously, something has to give. From my chair, in all likelihood, Pac-12 teams with only six wins will sit home for the holidays. Though there is a possibility that the bowl obligations of other leagues, such as the Big Ten and Big 12, could go unfulfilled, and the Pac-12 could scoop up those leftovers. There is talk about a Pac-12 team(s), possibly getting extra invites from the Heart of Dallas and/or Pinstripe Bowls.

But there are no guarantees.

And WSU fans certainly remember the 2006 season, when the Cougs went 6-6 but were denied a bowl berth.

Seven wins this season would certainly seem a virtual lock to go bowling. Five Pac-12 teams have won at least seven games, and Saturday's Washington-Oregon State winner makes six. But it's unlikely more than seven Pac-12 teams will win seven games. And even if that happens, Washington State is an attractive candidate because a) its pent-up demand after a 10-year bowl hiatus, and b) rock-star coach in Mike Leach.

Not that this is all bad news. You had Cougar victories penciled in over Utah and Washington anyway, right?

Cougs vs. Utes

The kickoff: 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Martin Stadium.

TV: Pac-12 Network

The line: WSU by 1

The series: Utes lead 7-5

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About Utah: This was one of the Pac-12's upstart programs a few weeks ago. The Utes had a productive dual-threat quarterback in Travis Wilson, an offensive coordinator with an impeccable resume in Dennis Erickson, and a 4-2 record following a win over BCS title game hopeful Stanford.

It's been downhill since for the Utes. Utah tows a four-game losing streak into Pullman, its latest loss a 44-21 setback at Oregon. The Utes have been impotent offensively, and their decent defense is overworked. It's also worth mentioning Utah might be a little weary Saturday, as this is the Utes' fourth road game in five weeks.

But, like the Cougars, there's still a flickering hope of postseason, even if six wins probably won't do it. The Utes will convince themselves that they're facing similar personnel in a Washington State team they hammered last year 49-6 in Salt Lake City.

However, this isn't the same Utah offense of 2012, or the first half of this season. Wilson missed Saturday's game at Oregon with a head injury, has been ruled out for the rest of this season and his career may even be over. That means the Utes will go with Adam Schulz, who completed 13 of 30 passes for 181 yards and a touchdown against the Ducks. Schulz has some other experiences from this season, as he threw 23 passes in a 142-yard performance against Arizona.

The Utes' top offensive playmakers are receiver Dres Anderson and running back Bubba Poole. Anderson, son of former UCLA great Flipper Anderson, has 41 receptions for 779 yards and six touchdowns, while Poole leads the running game with 592 yards.

However, the loss of Wilson is huge. When Wilson was healthy – he suffered a hand injury a few weeks back – he kept defenses honest with his feet, as the sophomore has run for five touchdowns and 386 yards this season.

For what it's worth, Utah is averaging 389 yards per game, but it's an irrelevant stat without Wilson playing. Schulz, who isn't as nimble, makes the Utes' offense less dynamic.

Defensively, Utah is mid-pack in the Pac-12, giving up an average of 387.3 yards and 27 points a game. The Utes are a little better against the run, and rank ninth in the Pac-12 in pass efficiency defense, something that should interest the Cougars.

The Utes' top tackler is Jason Whittingham, the nephew of Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham, who averages 8.1 stops per game. Watch out for Trevor Reilly, who ranks second in the Pac-12 in sacks with 8.5.

The series: This is only the 13th game of the WSU-Utah series, as the Utes are a Pac-12 short-timer. Prior to the 2011 game, the last game between the two schools was 2000, a 38-21 WSU win. Utah leads the series 7-5.

The low point of WSU's 2012 season arguably came against Utah, a 49-6 loss that probably wasn't as close as the score. Cougar fans would prefer to remember a much more competitive game from the year before, where Utah edged WSU 30-27 in overtime at Martin Stadium in 2011. Connor Halliday rallied the Cougars with 10 points during the final 3:14, only to lose when Coleman Petersen booted a 38-yard field goal in overtime.

Familiar faces: Utah is without a single player from the state of Washington. The Utes' lone tie to WSU is Erickson, the former Cougar coach following the Jim Walden era.

Read Nick Daschel's occasional Pac-12 ramblings at

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