What if forecast storm hits Sun Bowl early?

A POWERFUL WINTER storm is forecast to hit the El Paso area late Saturday afternoon, just after Washington State and Miami figure to have wrapped things up in the Sun Bowl. The forecast is about 48 hours out -- what if the storm arrives early?

It was partly sunny and relatively warm (62 degrees) at the Cougs' practice in El Paso on Thursday, offering no hint of what’s to come.

The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch for the El Paso area, in effect from Saturday afternoon through Sunday evening.

The forecast temperature at game time (11 a.m. Pacific) is 50 degrees -- about four hours later the temperature is predicted to start dropping quickly and for winds to pick up significantly.

As it stands, the forecast during the game calls for a light rain to fall, with only 0.05 of an inch expected over the course of the bowl game. Winds are predicted to be sustained at 15 mph with gusts to 21 mph. (The wind was blowing fairly hard during the Cougs’ Thursday practice, NOAA was reporting sustained winds of 26 mph and gusts to 32 mph in El Paso).

Once the storm hits on Saturday, it’s going to be tough sledding. The forecast: Rain showers will turn to snow by late Saturday afternoon or early evening and three-to-six inches of snow, “will cause dangerous driving conditions and may lead to some road closures… snow and blowing snow could reduce visibilities to less the one mile,” says the National Weather Service.

Assuming the weather holds off until after the game ends, the guess here is Washington State won’t waste any time in getting to the airport.

Washington State remains a 2 ½ point favorite according to Las Vegas.

ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI), which the network says is a measure of team strength, has certainly changed over the season with regard to Washington State.

Headed into the season, the FPI predicted WSU would win between 5.2 – 6.3 games this season. WSU has a chance to get their ninth win on Saturday in the Sun Bowl. 

WSU’s preseason FPI slotted the Cougs as 2.5 points above average.  It now stands at 6.8.

Washington State started this season at 89th out of 128 teams in the FPI, fell to 122nd after its Week One loss, and now stands at 46th headed into Saturday’s bowl game.

ESPN’s FPI, by the way, is predicting a Miami win over WSU in the Sun Bowl by 52.2 to 47.8 percent.

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