In a way, Mike Stoops is already there. Now in his fifth season coaching the Arizona Wildcats (5-3 overall, 3-2 Pac-10), Stoops can clinch...

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PULLMAN — In a way, Mike Stoops is already there.

Now in his fifth season coaching the Arizona Wildcats (5-3 overall, 3-2 Pac-10), Stoops can clinch bowl eligibility for the first time this weekend by simply doing what everybody else has been doing.

Beat Washington State.

The Wildcats were tantalizingly close the past two seasons — going 6-6 in 2006 and 5-7 last season. Those followed back-to-back 3-8 seasons in Stoops’ first two seasons in Tucson, Ariz.

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Stoops was hired after a nightmare 2003 season, when the Wildcats went through two head coaches and finished 2-10.

WSU coach Paul Wulff drew parallels between WSU’s current problems and the situation Stoops found when he arrived.

“You got to have a lot of parts in place to do it,” Wulff said about rebuilding a program. “A lot of it is about the state of the program when you come in. Every program is different.”

Wulff, however, was adamant that didn’t mean it would take five years at WSU.

“It does take time, and you can look at Arizona as an example,” he said. “But in my mind, I like to think we’ll be able to turn it around quicker than that. There’s no question I believe that, and that’s how we’re going to do it.”

1-2-3 Obama!

Wulff wasn’t watching television on election night to see the West Coast clinch Barack Obama’s election at 8 p.m. He and his coaches were in film sessions Tuesday night until they met up with players at 8:30.

As the meeting broke, Wulff led the team in the typical departing chant: “1-2-3 Go Cougs!”

Only most of the team didn’t follow suit.

“They yelled ‘1-2-3 Obama,’ ” he said. “That was how I found out he won.”

Not beating the odds

The Cougars enter Saturday’s game 41-point underdogs to Arizona, an all-too-familiar line for WSU. Last week the Cougars were 30-point underdogs to Stanford, and they were 42-point underdogs to USC two weeks earlier. Despite the spreads, the Cougars haven’t been able to cover once this season.


• CB Tyrone Justin, who is still ailing from a sprained ankle, looks doubtful Saturday. Markus Dawes will likely start in his place.

• Wulff hopes G B.J. Guerra, still battling a pinched nerve, will be cleared to play. DE Kevin Kooyman will be cleared, according to Wulff.

• DE Andy Mattingly, who sprained an ankle earlier in the week, will be ready to play Saturday.

• TE Devin Frishknecht ran without pads Wednesday and Thursday. He is recovering from a high ankle sprain, and his status is unknown.

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