WSU

ANALYSIS: Will WSU be ranked in final polls?

WASHINGTON STATE is probably going to be ranked in the preseason top 25 polls in 2016 - the Cougars will be coming off a 9-4 campaign and with a good amount of starters and key contributors returning. But what about this season’s final Associated Press and Coaches polls released on evening of Jan. 11? Will Wazzu climb back into the top 25 after its Sun Bowl win over Miami?

WSU effectively stands at 32nd in both the AP and Coaches polls.  The Cougs probably need a good amount of chaos in eight bowl games in order to jump into the top 25.

For those Cougar fans who root for all Pac-12 teams during bowl season, that could make for a conflict on Dec. 30 with USC in the Holiday Bowl. Southern Cal (8-5) is slotted above Washington State in both polls at (effectively) No. 27.

Three teams slotted above WSU in the Coaches poll have lost their bowl games through Saturday, while three others have won.  In the AP, two teams slotted above the Cougs have lost their bowl games, while three others won.

Who to root for in eight bowl games over the next six days? These teams winning their bowl games helps WSU’s cause: Kansas State, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Penn State, Texas Tech, Pitt, Michigan and North Carolina.  Auburn beating Memphis (Dec. 30, Birmingham Bowl), with the Tigers just behind WSU in both polls, also helps.

Who to root against?  Arkansas, Tennessee, USC, Georgia, LSU, Navy, Florida and Baylor. 

Georgia, LSU and Navy losing their bowl games look to be particularly important to Washington State climbing into the top 25.  (For Florida and Baylor, WSU likely needs a blowout bowl loss by those teams to climb past them in the polls, but even then that might not be enough).

Here are how teams above WSU in the top 25 rankings, including the ‘Others receiving votes’ category, have fared during the bowl season -- or who they’re scheduled to play.

AP Poll
31. Arkansas (7-5) plays Kansas State in Liberty Bowl on Jan. 2.
30. San Diego State (12-3, season complete) beat Cincinnati 42-7 in Hawaii Bowl.
29. Tennessee (8-4) plays No. 12 Northwestern in Outback Bowl on Jan. 1.
28. BYU (9-4, season complete) lost to No. 20 Utah 35-28 in Las Vegas Bowl
27. USC  (8-5) plays No. 23 Wisconsin in Holiday Bowl on Dec. 30.
26. Georgia (9-3) plays Penn State in the TaxSlayer Bowl on Jan. 2

25. Western Kentucky (12-2, season complete) beat USF 45-35 in Miami Beach Bowl.
24. Temple (10-4, season complete) lost to Toledo 32-17 in Boca Raton Bowl.
23. Wisconsin (9-3) plays USC in Holiday Bowl on Dec. 30.
22. LSU (8-3) plays Texas Tech in Texas Bowl on Dec. 29.
21. Navy (10-2) plays Pitt in the Military Bowl on Dec. 28
20. Utah (10-3, season complete) beat BYU in Las Vegas Bowl
19. Florida (10-3) plays No. 17 Michigan in Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1
18. Baylor (9-3) plays No. 10 North Carolina in Russell Athletic Bowl on Dec. 29


Coaches Poll
31. Bowling Green (10-4, season complete) lost to Georgia Southern in Go Daddy Bowl
30. UCLA (8-5, season complete) lost to Nebraska in Foster Farms Bowl
29. Tennessee (8-4) plays No. 12 Northwestern in Outback Bowl on Jan. 1.
28. San Diego State (12-3, season complete) beat Cincinnati 42-7 in Hawaii Bowl
27. USC (8-5) plays No. 23 Wisconsin in Holiday Bowl on Dec. 30.
26. Western Kentucky (12-2, season complete) beat USF 45-35 in Miami Beach Bowl.

25. Georgia  (9-3) plays Penn State in the TaxSlayer Bowl on Jan. 2
24. Temple (10-4, season complete) lost to Toledo 32-17 in Boca Raton Bowl.
23. Wisconsin (9-3) plays USC in Holiday Bowl on Dec. 30.
22. Navy (10-2) plays Pitt in the Military Bowl on Dec. 28
21. LSU (8-3) plays Texas Tech in Texas Bowl on Dec. 29.
20. Utah (10-3, season complete) beat BYU in Las Vegas Bowl
19. Baylor (9-3) plays No. 11 North Carolina in Russell Athletic Bowl on Dec. 29
18. Florida (10-3) plays No. 17 Michigan in Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1

NOTABLE NOTES:
--Based on the last two seasons, and barring a lot going its way in the eight bowl games, Washington State looks to face a tall order in jumping at least seven spots to finish in the top 25. Last season, Marshall and Memphis climbed into the AP top 25 after bowl game wins. (Marshall beat unranked Northern Illinois in their bowl game to climb five spots to No. 23, while Memphis beat unranked BYU in their bowl to climb two spots to No. 25. LSU (22) and Nebraska (25) fell out of the AP top 25 after losing their bowl games.

--In 2013, Fresno State (21); Georgia (23); and Northern Illinois (24) fell out of the AP top 25 after losing their bowl games, with USC making the biggest postseason move in jumping seven spots from No. 26 to No. 19, but their opponent in that bowl game was No. 20 Fresno State.

-- Hercules Mata'afa, the Sun Bowl Lineman of the Game, is pictured above (50). The second-year freshman was credited with three tackles including a sack. Mata'afa, who didn't start a game this season for the Cougs, finished the season tied with Darryl Paulo for most sacks on the season with seven.


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