Fans of the Washington State Cougars are renowned for their spirit, not to mention their appreciation for consuming spirits. On Monday, however, WSU athletic director Bill Moos said he doesn’t expect the Cougars to play their bowl game in one of America’s favorite party towns.
Moos, speaking on his weekly radio show, said he’s “pretty sure” the Cougars will play in the Valero Alamo, Holiday, Foster Farms or Hyundai Sun bowls. The Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl is next on the pecking order of the seven bowls with ties to the Pac-12 Conference. The Rose Bowl is first, and the Cactus Bowl is seventh.
Moos later admitted “everything’s possible” when asked about going to Las Vegas. Moos, however, pointed out that WSU’s 6-3 conference record is tied for third-best with USC and Utah. Only Stanford (9-1) and Oregon (7-2) have better conference records.
“We beat Oregon,” Moos said. “Don’t think I won’t be using that.”
Moos probably won’t be inclined to mention the Cougars needed two overtimes to beat an Oregon team that was playing without star QB Vernon Adams Jr. Likewise, Moos will stress that WSU was missing standout QB Luke Falk in Saturday’s 45-10 loss at Washington.
“To have a good taste in your mouth by winning that last game does help (influence bowl selections),” Moos said. “But we can hold our heads high that we accomplished some fabulous things this year.”
The 8-4 Cougars, who were ranked 20th before falling out of the Top 25 after the loss to Washington, have won six of the past eight games. Falk ranks third in the nation in passing yards (4,266) and fourth in touchdown passes (36). Wide receiver Gabe Marks is tied for third with 14 touchdown catches and ranks 14th in receptions with 99.
“We’re a fun, fun team to watch,” Moos said. “Certainly (coach) Mike Leach has a national personality.”
Marks was injured late in the Washington game, leaving WSU without four key offensive starters. The Cougars almost never comment on injuries, so it is unknown if any of those players might play in a bowl game.
“Hopefully, everybody would be back,” Moos said. “I don’t have any idea.”
Moos said he will “continue to have conversations” with officials of the Alamo Bowl, which involves a Big 12 Conference team Jan. 1 in San Antonio. The Big Ten Conference is contracted with the Holiday Bowl Dec. 30 in San Diego and the Foster Farms Bowl Dec. 26 in San Francisco. An Atlantic Coast Conference team is lined up for the Sun Bowl Dec. 26 in El Paso, TX.
The Mountain West Conference sends a representative to the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 19. The Big 12 is tied in with the Cactus Bowl, which will be played Jan. 2 in Phoenix. Ten Pac-12 teams are bowl eligible, including 6-6 Washington.
The Alamo, Holiday and Foster Farms bowls have the option of moving up or down in the pecking order to select Pac-12 teams separated by one conference win. The Sun, Las Vegas and Cactus bowls then select Pac-12 teams based on order of finish in the standings.
The Rose Bowl pairs the Pac-12 and Big Ten champions if those teams don’t qualify for the four-team national playoffs. Other teams from those leagues would be selected for the Rose Bowl if necessary. Saturday’s conference title games match No. 7 Stanford and No. 24 USC in the Pac-12 and No. 4 Iowa and No. 5 Michigan State in the Big Ten.
Moos noted that Holiday Bowl officials may prefer Washington State over USC because the Trojans played in the game last year, and because many USC fans live close enough to San Diego that they wouldn’t stay overnight.