A year ago, it seemed like Washington State, coming off a resurgent season, might catch the eye of the Holiday, particularly since the Cougars have shown well in previous trips to San Diego. But it was not to be, as the Holiday Bowl went for the television eye balls of USC over the Cougars. And this year?
Again, Washington State presents a strong case to the Holiday, perhaps even more so if things play out as they could. Still, Holiday Bowl executive director Mark Neville was typically non-committal about the Cougars’ chances of landing in the Dec. 27 bowl game. Washington State’s last appearance in the Holiday Bowl was 2003, when it beat No. 5 Texas 28-20.
“We look at Washington State very positively, and I’m not just saying that," Neville told CF.C. "Granted, it’s been a while since Washington State has been in our game, but we have fond memories of when they came to San Diego last time. Many variables come into play. We’re kind of in a good position again this year, where depending on the scenario, we might have some good options.”
Neville says there are myriad scenarios in play regarding the Pac-12’s entrant into his game. Asked if he had a gut feeling, Neville referred to the most popular scenario, one where Washington beats Colorado in the Pac-12 title game, earning the Huskies a berth in the College Football Playoff, and the Buffaloes to the Rose Bowl.
“The Alamo Bowl chooses ahead of us, and they have a couple of choices, USC and Washington State. Whoever they don’t take would be available to us, as would Stanford,” Neville said.
Told that it seems far-fetched that the Alamo would pass on a red-hot USC team over WSU, Neville said “Yes, but I can’t speak for them.”
THE MOST LIKELY HOLIDAY SCENARIO comes down to Stanford, which is 9-3 with a bigger national following and a fan base closer to San Diego, against Washington State, which is 8-4 but finished ahead of the Cardinal (7-2 to 6-3) in the Pac-12 North standings.
The Cougars also own an emphatic 42-16 road win over Stanford this season. The Cougars have an identical 8-4 record as last year, even if it was assembled in a slightly different fashion, an eight-game winning streak book-ended by two consecutive losses.
“They’re an entertaining football team for a bowl game, for sure. I think they’re very attractive. I can’t tell you if they’re more or less than last year, but we look at Washington State very favorably,” Neville said.
Quarterback Luke Falk is a drawing card, Neville said.
“We have watched Luke Falk for a couple years now. He’s a fun quarterback and one our fans would love to see. Luke Falk and that offense, that’s a variable we’re looking at,” Neville said.
Neville says the Cougars' finish to the season, where they lost to Colorado and Washington, is not a negative factor.
“Their losses aren’t anything to be ashamed of. Those were two great football teams. A loss to Colorado or Washington is a lot different than a loss to ABC State. We don’t look at them as bad losses,” Neville said.
Neville says the Holiday Bowl committee will compile data throughout the week, but because this weekend’s games have a significant impact on the bowl picture, “we’re not going to be making any decisions until Sunday morning. We’ve been surprised before, where teams we thought would be available to us disappeared.”
As for the other sideline in the Holiday Bowl, Neville says the Big 10 teams most prominent are Iowa and Minnesota, with Penn State perhaps as a long shot.
The bowl selections will be announced Sunday.
Here's another nightmare scenario for Cougar fans to consider: The Pac-12 breaking its own rules. The Salt Lake City Tribune mentions the possibility of the Pac-12 arranging for WSU to play in the Las Vegas Bowl. It would require an unlikely scenario but if it were to play out, the Las Vegas bowl's executive director says the Pac-12 is likely to "step in" and arrange for Wazzu to go to Vegas, and Utah to go to El Paso. For the article, click here.