THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL SEASON isn't over yet but there are already 2014 previews starting to pop up. Athlon has one out and they mention the Cougs among their Top 49. And it becomes more interesting when looking at what Athlon said about the Cougs before the 2013 season.

This is what Athlon says about the Cougs for 2014:
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.

Here's what Athlon said before the 2013 season about the Cougs:
They should be improved, but it would be a bit of a surprise if they flirted with a .500 record.

Considering the Cougs flirted with an 8-5 record this season, with the outcome of their final two games in doubt deep into the fourth quarter, Leach and Co. look to have surprised Athlon more than just a bit.

IN CASE YOU missed it, Washington State in going 6-7 this season has faced the toughest college football schedule in the nation according to Jeff Sagarin. (Sagarin's final ratings are expected sometime after the bowl games conclude.)

Sagarin offers a variety of ratings but in his overall rankings -- his poll, as it were -- he has the Cougs at No. 30. That's an eye-opener when you look back to Leach's first season at Washington State.

Sagarin's final 2012 overall rankings slotted the Cougs at No. 104.

THE COUGS' Deone Bucannon is projected by NFLDraftScout as the No. 1 strong safety prospect available in the upcoming draft and a 1-2 round selection.

Damante Horton is the only other Cougar the site projects as a potential draft pick, classifying the cornerback as a 7th round/undrafted free agent prospect.

Also listed as those who could enter the draft mix between now and May 8-10 are K Andrew Furney, OL John Fullington. (Vince Mayle, who recently received another year of eligibility to return to WSU in 2014, is also listed as a FB on the site.)

COLORADO STATE d-line coach Greg Lupfer received a two-week suspension by the school, along with "educational training" on LGBT issues, after initiating the New Mexico Bowl confrontation where he hurled slurs and profanity at Connor Halliday.

There are a few things wrong with CSU's decision.

Eastern Michigan football coach Ron English was fired for using similar language directed as his team. Meanwhile, Lupfer gets two weeks during a recruiting dead period.

Most schools won't have their full staffs back in the office until mid-January. So CSU won't lose a thing from Lupfer's "absence" -- and Lupfer will be doing exactly what he was probably going to be doing over the holidays anyway. The only change is that he misses out on two weeks of pay. Is that an appropriate measure? Colorado State thinks so.

And then there's this: For the two canned and carefully written apologies Lupfer has issued through the school, Lupfer has yet to publicly apologize to Halliday or Washington State. Given such a glaring oversight, it makes one wonder just how heartfelt those apologies were.

LET'S SAY THE Cougs do what Athlon and others think they will and win more in '14. Let's say they improve by two wins next year, and go 8-5. Then let's dream a little further on and say the following season, in 2015, Washington State in Mike Leach's fourth season is right there with the big boys and does what Stanford did this year: The Cougs win the Pac-12 title game over ASU, but they're not among the nation's top four teams. So the Cougs would go to the Rose Bowl, right? Wrong.

The Rose Bowl will host the semifinals of the four-team College Football Playoff beginning in 2015 (and again in '18, '21 and '24.) In years the Rose does not host a semi-final game, they will preserve their Pac-12-Big Ten matchup. The Rose in the new system is a contract bowl and part of what's being called the "New Year's Six". That group consists of the Rose, Sugar, Orange, Fiesta, Cotton and Chick-fil-A bowls.

One of the better write-ups we've seen covering the new system that goes into effect next season can be found HERE.

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