USATodaySports/Buchanan

Conscience in Crisis: It’s getting hard to root against UW for this particular Cougfan.com Analyst

I NEVER THOUGHT I would say the words: It’s getting very hard for this particular CF.C analyst not to root for the Huskies. That isn’t just disappointing to me, it’s damned near sacrilege. This is not a question of loyalty, nor does it reflect any change in my thinking towards the purple platoon of darkness. They remain as they always have: an entitled, whiny pack of hypocrites sipping Mike's Hard Black Cherry Lemonade and snacking on brie cheese.

No, the change here is one of pragmatism.  WSU has bigger aspirations at the moment, and frankly so do the Huskies with the prospects of vaulting into the 4-team college playoff.

With five games to go in the regular season, the Cougars find themselves in control of their own destiny to the Rose Bowl. Better still, they appear to have a little bit of wiggle room to get there. Seven games into the season, if things play out the way it’s looking, WSU basically needs to win four in order to get to Pasadena. And near as I can tell, it doesn't much matter which four, assuming there's not a monkey wrench to come.

If WSU beats UW in the Apple Cup they win the North, provided they only lose one or fewer games the rest of the way.  This is (duh) the preferred option, to head into the Pac-12 title game with the Rose Bowl berth on the line. But what if, God forbid, Luke Falk gets hurt again and WSU loses the Apple Cup with Falk on the sidelines for the second straight season?

Well, even if WSU loses the Apple Cup, it could still get a bid to the Rose Bowl if they win its other four and -- and this is the rub -- if the Dawgs wins theirs.

At the moment, UW's winning is helping WSU, as revolting as that may sound.  And if it pains you like it pains me, try a historical comparison and see if that make it more palatable: Perhaps think of it like Winston Churchill backing the Soviets against the Nazis.

Let’s talk on-field nitty-gritty, and should WSU lose the Apple Cup but WSU still gets the Rose Bowl berth as a second place Pac-12 team.  There are three chief rivals in the way at the moment:

1. Utah.
Utah is sitting at 6-1 and is the only other ranked Pac-12 team besides Washington (WSU is 26th in the polls). WSU needs Utah to start picking up losses, and the Cougs are not in a position to help. Washington can beat the Utes, possibly even twice, but if nobody else takes down the Utes, a 10-3 Utah team will almost certainly get the invitation over a 9-3 WSU squad. That said, Utah has the toughest remaining schedule of anyone in the conference (at UCLA, Washington, at ASU, Oregon, and at Colorado). Unless they pick up a big splash win over UW, the Utes are likely to die a slow death late in the year, as they frankly always seem to do.

2. USC.
As with Utah, the Cougars do not play USC and are not in position to affect the rest of its season. The Trojans are 4-3, but picking up steam. The Trojans are likely to be favored in all their remaining games except UW. An upset win over UW in the regular season (or in the championship game, of course) likely vaults them into the Rose Bowl. It will be very tempting for Cougar fans to pull for the Trojans in their November meeting with the Huskies, but it might hurt WSU more than UW. USC’s remaining schedule: Cal, Oregon, at UW, at UCLA, Notre Dame.

3. Colorado.
Colorado is interesting because WSU plays them, and in the penultimate regular season game. The Buffs are one of the feel good stories of the year and will be a prime candidate for the Rose Bowl selection committee if they are eligible. It would seem logical for the Cougs to start rooting for Colorado's demise, and that might help, but don't be too sure. WSU is an a position give a knockout punch to the Buffs in late November, and that might be the best case scenario. A meeting between top 25 teams at that point will get a lot of attention, and it is an ideal situation for WSU to make its case to the Rose Bowl committee should they have to go with the second-best team in the conference. As far as I'm concerned, the Buffs need to keep on winning for the time being. Remaining schedule: at Stanford, UCLA, at Arizona, WSU, Utah

SO AT THE moment, the enemy of our enemy is our enemy.   I am confident that, like most Cougar fans, I will forget all of this come Saturday and root for anyone and everyone playing against the Huskies the rest of the way.  But if so, I will be doing it merely out of instinct. It's hard to argue with DNA.

Unless UW  goes on a losing streak, or Husky Stadium is invaded by radioactive cockroaches, UW losses do not equal WSU gains when it comes to a Rose Bowl scenario that involves a crimson loss in the Apple Cup.  Only one UW loss out of the next four still means, at worst, the Huskies play for the North title in the Apple Cup. But UW going 4-1 and winning the Apple Cup could also slam the door shut on WSU’s Rose Bowl plans.

Still, I am REFUSE to drink one of those malt flavored beverages come Saturday when UW travels to Utah. That's a bridge too far.

RELATED STORY: Monday Morning Quarterbacking with Jed Collins


Cougfan Top Stories