PULLMAN — When Mike Leach was the coach at Texas Tech the Red Raiders went to 10 straight bowl games. One of the perks of postseason play was the extra practice time allotted to bowl teams.
While all teams are limited to 15 practices in the spring, the NCAA places no cap on the number of practices a team can squeeze in before a bowl game.
“I think it’s incredibly helpful. We went to 10 straight bowls and I thought in the middle of 10 straight bowls that everybody should have the practice opportunities because it’s a definite advantage,” Leach said. “And then your young guys, you know, you can work them and the young guys will have improved a lot since camp.”
The Cougars (5-5, 3-4 Pac-12) would become bowl eligible with a victory against Utah on Saturday. The last time they played in a bowl game was 2003, and the last time they were eligible was 2006.
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After defeating Arizona last weekend, WSU is hoping to put together its first winning streak since September. With a win under their belts, the Cougars believe their positive momentum can give them an advantage.
“I think so just because you have that confidence coming in,” senior offensive lineman Elliott Bosch said. “Guys believe in what we’re doing. It just carries you and gives you momentum into next week.”
Under NCAA guidelines, any team that finishes with a .500 or better record (and having played only one or fewer games against non-Football Bowl Subdivision teams) is eligible to play in a bowl game.
However, there are a finite number of bowls and it is possible to qualify and not receive a bowl invite, as occurred in 2006 when WSU and Arizona were left out with 6-6 records.
“It’s never happened to me. And it shouldn’t happen at all, especially in this conference,” Leach said.
It could happen to a Pac-12 team this season. The conference has contracted with seven bowls and is unlikely to send a team to the BCS championship game. With eight teams already bowl eligible and WSU, Utah and Colorado still in the mix, the Pac-12 could have as many as 10 teams qualified to play in the postseason.
If other conferences do not have enough teams reach a .500 record then the bowls they have tie-ins with will look elsewhere. The American Athletic Conference and Big 12 are potential sources.
The Atlantic Coast Conference has already filled its bowl allotment, as have the Mountain West and Sun Belt conferences. If Texas-San Antonio wins one of its final two games then Conference USA will have as well.
The Mid-American Conference only has tie-ins with three bowl games, yet has six teams qualified.
But all of those scenarios and possibilities will only matter for the Cougars if they win one of their final two games. With that in mind, WSU players say they’re doing their best to block out any thoughts of playing in a bowl.
“It gives you a little extra energy,” Bosch said. “But around the program, we’re trying not to talk about that. Our main goal this year has been to focus on the task at hand one week at a time and win one game that Saturday. It gives you a little extra, but we’re trying not to talk about it.”
Well, not too much.
“It would be huge,” said safety Deone Bucannon.
• WSU senior wide receiver Vince Mayle was granted an additional year of eligibility by the NCAA. Mayle, from Sacramento, Calif., is in his first season in Pullman. He has played in all 10 games, catching 32 passes.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.