WSU football notebook: the preseason rankings

WASHINGTON STATE fans are accustomed to seeing their teams underestimated in preseason rankings. The Crimson faithful certainly hope the underestimating trend is maintained in regard to the annual Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel rankings of all Football Bowl Subdivision teams.

WSU is ranked 97th among 128 teams, beating out only No. 102 Oregon State and No. 107 Colorado among Pac-12 Conference teams. The Cougars ranked just ahead of South Alabama, Akron and New Mexico State.

The Cougars hope to take advantage of the fact they play Oregon State and Colorado at home. Also, two of WSU’s three nonconference home games involve Portland State – projected to be an underwhelming Football Championship Subdivision team – and 106th-ranked Wyoming. The Cougars open the season Sept. 5 against PSU.

Washington State’s chances of playing in a bowl game for the second time in three years were enhanced when three bowls were added for the coming season. With 42 bowls, 84 of the 128 FBS teams will play in bowl games.

Teams with 5-7 records may wind up qualifying in special circumstances. If the Cougars beat Portland State, Wyoming, Oregon State and Colorado … well, anything’s possible.

The Cougars have finished 3-9 in two of Mike Leach’s first three seasons as coach. In 2013, the Cougars lost to Colorado State in the New Mexico Bowl to finish 6-7, missing out on WSU’s first winning season since going 10-3 in 2003 under Bill Doba. Leach (12-25) has won three more games in three seasons than predecessor Paul Wulff (9-40) won during his four-year run.

Washington State football fans can always look back to 1997 for encouragement. The Cougars were picked seventh that year in the Pac-10 preseason media poll, but they wound up sharing the conference championship, going to the Rose Bowl and placing ninth in the final Associated Press Top 25 poll.

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