WSU bowl outlook version 2.0: Fewer options, more clarity; an analysis from CF.C’s Matt Moore

THIS PAST SATURDAY was not a total loss for Washington State. Oregon's upset of Utah helped the Cougs considerably in the bowl game picture. Even USC and UW might have done Wazzu a favor by picking up wins last week.

The playoff window (in my opinion never seriously open to WSU) officially closed with the loss to Colorado. But that doesn't mean Cougar fans should stop watching the playoff selection committee rankings.

Even if no Pac-12 school makes the 4-team playoff, there are still some Pac-12 possibilities in the remaining New Year's Six bowl bids beyond the Rose, such as with the Cotton. For the Pac-12 teams currently above WSU in the rankings, if those teams land in a “better bowl" that essentially improves WSU's bowl outlook in the process.

There are five bowl possibilities from my chair for the Cougars, and no more.  Here’s my WSU bowl game outlook:

Rose Bowl: WSU’s road to the Rose Bowl remains unchanged. WSU needs to win its last two games, the Apple Cup and the Pac-12 title game, and its in the Rose Bowl (pictured above). There remain other scenarios if a Pac-12 school goes to the playoff but we'll cross that bridge if we come to it.

Alamo Bowl: In my mind, WSU's chances of going to San Antonio took a big hit on Saturday, but the news isn't all bad. The Alamo is second in the Pac-12 bowl selection order. If Colorado beats Utah this week -- and WSU fans should hope it does --  USC will be left out of the conference title game. But USC would probably remain ranked high enough that I suspect the Cotton still grabs them. If Colorado loses, and if you factor in a WSU loss in the Apple Cup, the loser of the UW-USC Pac-12 title game will likely still be in the top 10 playoff rankings -- and snatched up by the Cotton. I think WSU has to beat UW Friday to truly open up the door to the Alamo Bowl again, but it’s not a lock.

Holiday Bowl: If a Pac-12 team goes to the playoff or is selected by one of the New Year’s Six, WSU will be the highest remaining team in the conference standings, even if it lose the Apple Cup. Utah's loss last weekend means it is out of the division race, it cannot match WSU's conference record. The potential problem for WSU here is Stanford. WSU has beaten Stanford and has the better conference record by two games -- but if WSU loses the Apple Cup, Stanford would be within one conference loss of WSU. And the Holiday would then have the option of selecting the Cardinal over the Cougs. In my mind, if Stanford beats Rice and WSU loses to UW this weekend, the Holiday Bowl would go with Stanford, the thinking being Stanford is the higher ranked team in the polls and provides a juicier name for TV ratings.

Foster Farms Bowl: If I had to make a wager, this is probably where I’d say WSU is headed if it loses the Apple Cup. There appears little reason for this bowl to covet Utah over WSU, and I suspect Stanford will have already been taken by another bowl. What mucks up that theory is if Utah beats Colorado. That might give the Utes just enough light for the Foster Farms to take the Utes over the Cougs.

Sun Bowl: This is as far as WSU can fall. Every other bowl possibility is now off the table, the Sun Bowl is not allowed select Utah or Stanford ahead of WSU like the others. If WSU does end up in El Paso for the second straight year, its fans will join a loud chorus of Pac-12 teams’ fans saying, 'We just got screwed again with our pants on.'  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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