The Cougars narrowly missed out on going to a New Year's Six Bowl game, but their consolation prize is the chance to play a ranked Iowa State team in the Alamo Bowl instead.
There will be no New Year’s Six bowl game for the Washington State football team despite the program’s first 10-win season in 15 years.
Instead, the Cougars are headed to the Alamo Bowl, where they will play 24th-ranked Iowa State (8-4 overall, 6-3 Big 12) on Dec. 28 in San Antonio, Texas. The Alamo Bowl will kick off at 6 p.m. PT and air on ESPN.
The Cougars (10-2 overall, 7-2 Pac-12) finished No. 13 in the final edition of the College Football Playoff rankings, eliminating the possibility of an appearance in one of the prestigious New Year’s Six bowl games. The NY6 games – the Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Peach Bowl, Orange Bowl and Cotton Bowl – take the top 12 teams in the country.
Washington State athletic director Pat Chun told ESPN that he believes the national perception of the Pac-12 Conference led to the Cougars being ranked lower than they should have been.
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“We can easily infer that where we’re ranked is a result of maybe the perception of the league,” Chun said.
Chun thought his school should have been safely off to a New Year’s Six bowl, most likely the Fiesta.
“We’re very disappointed with where we ended up being ranked,” Chun told ESPN. “We believe, as a 10-win team in Power 5 league, the manner in which our two losses came, statistically how we match up with the other teams in the same cluster as us, we believed our résumé ranked perhaps higher than where the committee thought it was, but they are empowered to make those decisions. We’ll respect those decisions.
“We are not happy with where we’re ranked, but we’re ecstatic to be in the Alamo Bowl.”
Mike Leach returns to the state where he spent a decade, from 2000-09, as the coach at Texas Tech
The Cyclones are coming off a strong season that included back-to-back upset wins over then-No. 25 Oklahoma State, and then-No. 6 West Virginia in October. They finished third in the Big 12 behind Oklahoma and Texas.
The Alamo Bowl will be Iowa State’s second consecutive bowl game. The Cyclones beat Memphis 21-20 in the Liberty Bowl last year, Matt Campbell’s second season as head coach.
“Anybody. Anytime. Anywhere. Don’t matter. We’re going for number 11! #GoCougs” WSU quarterback Gardner Minshew tweeted Sunday afternoon.
Just two teams in the Big 12 are giving up fewer than 400 yards per game this season and only two are ranked in the top 50 in total defense. TCU is one of those and ISU is the other, allowing 351 yards per game. The Cyclones are also better-equipped to handle an offense such as WSU’s Air Raid, giving up just 228 passing yards per game.
Led by Minshew, the national leader in passing yards per game, the Cougars have their first 10-win season in 15 years. The Alamo Bowl will be their fourth consecutive postseason appearance, after trips to the Sun Bowl (2015) and Holiday Bowl (2016, 2017). WSU, which played in the New Mexico Bowl in 2013, is 1-3 in bowl games under Leach.
The Cougars have played in the Alamo Bowl one other time in program history, edging Baylor 10-3 in 1994.
WSU dropped five places from No. 8 to No. 13 last week after a loss to Washington in the Apple Cup and stayed stagnant when the final rankings were unveiled Sunday morning on the College Football Playoff show.
Florida (9-3), LSU (9-3) and Penn State (9-3) all ended the year with one more loss and one fewer win than WSU, but finished ahead of the Cougars in the final CFP rankings – at No. 10, No. 11 and No. 12 respectively.
No. 9 Washington (10-3) and No. 17 Utah (9-4) were the only other Pac-12 teams to wind up in the final CFP rankings. By virtue of beating the Utes 10-3 in Friday’s Pac-12 championship game, the Huskies will face No. 6 Ohio State in their first Rose Bowl appearance in 18 years.