Rethinking how 2015 Cougars go bowling

COUGAR FOOTBALL coaches and players are adamant about not looking ahead (though you had to wonder after the Portland State setback). But while they may take the season one game at a time, we don't. And after just two weeks, our view is that the script for how Washington State goes bowling this season has been rewritten.

The win at Rutgers doesn’t take the place of the loss to Portland State. The nonconference goal is always 3-0 and with a tough four-game Pac-12 stretch in the latter half of the 2015 schedule, Washington State's loss in the opener was, and remains, a body blow to this season bowl hopes.

And while few Cougar fans were thinking of a Rose Bowl berth (above with the late, great Leon Bender) here’s my view on how Washington State gets (at least) five more wins out of the next 10 games.

Wyoming: Gotta have it. A repeat performance from Wazzu like in the opener will have Cougar fans replacing their cutlery with plastic sporks and talking gibberish.

Cal: This is one of the “big three” games for the Cougs, where they need (at least) one win out of the trio. For all the preseason hype, Cal looked flatter than three-day old Dr. Pepper in the first quarter against SDSU last week. They eventually turned it around and won convincingly but I’m still not sold on Cal nor their defense. Cal's next two opponents, Texas and UW, may clarify things some but given the caliber of said opponents, my guess is that just how good the Bears are will still be in question when WSU travels to Berkley. WSU can still go bowling with a loss to Cal, but a win would make things a helluva lot easier.

Oregon: The Ducks aren’t as good as last year with Marcus Mariota gone but with or without QB Vernon Adams, it’s hard to see WSU pulling off the upset given the way the Cougar D has played through two weeks.

Oregon State: Watching the Beavs’ opener against Weber State, one thought endured: If WSU doesn’t beat this OSU squad, in Pullman, the Cougar coaches and players should take a page from Jim Walden’s discipline book, drive themselves to Moscow, and then run all the way back to Pullman. OSU played a mediocre Michigan team tough at first this past Saturday before a turnover sapped momentum and they never got it back. WSU needs to, and should, take this one and they can do so by winning the mental game early on against a young, thin team in transition.

Arizona: The start of the tough four game stretch. WSU stunning Arizona in Tucson, as it did two years ago, would be big. But the early returns say this will be a tall order in ‘15.

Stanford: Stanford is far more beatable than was perceived by many a preseason prognosticator. Still, this is a matchup that probably favors the Cardinal. WSU can definitely win, but they can’t make nearly the amount of physical and mental errors as they have the first two games.

ASU: The Sun Devils are reeling, not because of the loss to Texas A&M, but because of how they barely escaped Cal Poly. WSU’s best chance in this four game stretch is to knock off either ASU or Stanford – and the Cougs probably need one of these two games go their way (if they don’t win at Cal) if they want to go bowling.

UCLA: The Bruins are never as good as the media hype machine says they are but they’ve still been considerably better than WSU in the early going. This is a potentially good matchup for the Cougs -- if the D can at least do a credible job, but it’s just a bridge too far right now to peg WSU for a win in Pasadena.

Colorado: With two games left in the regular season, both are imminently winnable, starting with the Buffs. Put this one in the “gotta have it” column.

Washington: Cue Dennis Green. The Huskies are what we thought they were. The Cougs frankly should take care of business but anything goes in the Apple Cup: I’m still puzzling over the 2001, 2002 and 2003 games when the Cougs were the better team each year but couldn’t get it done. WSU’s bowl hopes, and perhaps the Huskies’ too, could very well be riding on this game, making for an electric 2015 Apple Cup.

So there it is, the most likely scenario from this chair for Wazzu to go bowling: the Cougs beating Wyoming, Oregon State, Colorado and Washington, and getting one more win from either Cal, Stanford or ASU.

That of course doesn't rule out WSU catching fire over these last 10 weeks, being full of surprises (the good kind) and have already attained bowl eligibility before the Apple Cup rolls around – that’s why they play the games.

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