The season is just over a month old but Gonzaga is about to face its first true road game. The Bulldogs are in Morgantown to take on West Virginia, which will be out to avenge two lopsided losses to GU in the last 20 months. It'll be a tough test, made tougher by the likelihood that Kevin Pangos (toe) and Gary Bell Jr. (hip) probably won't be at full strength. Both are expected to play
A GRIP ON SPORTS
After the flood of news yesterday, the waters have receded a bit, leaving just the debris. And, of course, the worst of it is from the Mariners. Read on.
Talk about peaking at the right time: The unranked Jacksonville State Gamecocks have knocked off two straight ranked opponents in the FCS playoffs, and they'll try to do it again this week at Eastern Washington. Here's our first look at Jacksonville State, and here is the official release from Eastern. (And by the way, Eagle cornerback Ronald Baines is listed as probable this week after suffering a concussion against South Dakota State.) … Jacksonville State - soon to be known as “Jax” in my Tweets to save space - had a dominating performance last week at McNeese State, but head coach Bill Clark and the Gamecocks have plenty of respect for Eastern Washington. … Want more on Jacksonville State? Go to al.com, a Birmingham-based web site that covers college football like nothing you've ever seen. (It is Alabama, after all.) Here's their Jacksonville State page.
From Pullman — While there is no limit on the number of practices a bowl-bound team can take, Washington State won't be able to get many in before their Dec. 21 appearance in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl. With less than two weeks to prepare, the Cougars won't be able to devote many practices to the development of younger players. Complicating matters is the fact that it is finals week at WSU. So the Cougars will practice on Tuesday and Wednesday, take Thursday off, and then return to the field and practice all weekend. With temperatures in Pullman well below freezing, it is likely the team will continue to make use of their inflatable indoor practice facility.
In the paper we have a look at each of the Pac-12 bowl games, and on the blog we examine just how much money the Pac-12 lost by not getting a second team in a BCS bowl. Neil Stover of SWX and I talked about WSU and the New Mexico Bowl last night … If you're having trouble justifying the expensive airfare to Albuquerque WSU may be offering an alternative … WSU opened as four-point favorites over Colorado State … Braulio Perez reports that WSU has another commit on the offensive line.
Neil Stover of SWX was kind enough to have me on his show again to talk about WSU and the New Mexico Bow.
From Pullman — On the one hand, it was a banner Invitation Sunday for the Pac-12, which saw a record nine teams punch their tickets to bowl games. Even more impressive — all nine schools played in the old Pac-10, with only Cal joining relative newcomers Utah and Colorado as conference deadweight. Indeed, if not for the hapless Bears from Berkeley, all the original members of the Pacific Coast Conference, Athletic Association of Western Universities and the Pac-8 would all be playing in the postseason.
Every Pac-12 team except Oregon State opened as the favorite in their bowl game, and the conference appears poised for a successful bowl season.
But in another sense, the Pac-12 athletic directors and commissioner Larry Scott likely can't help but feel disappointed. Oregon looked poised to play in the Sugar Bowl, giving the conference two BCS bowl berths along with Stanford in the Rose Bowl. By all the laws of God and man it should have happened. But not, apparently, the laws of the NCAA.
Despite the Pac-12's near-unanimous status as the second-best conference in the country, and despite the season-long hankering of college football fans to see Alabama's defense matchup against Oregon's offense, the Sugar Bowl chose the geographically closer Oklahoma Sooners as the Crimson Tide's opponent.
The spurning of the ducks had repercussions throughout the conference. We'll take a look after the jump.
A GRIP ON SPORTS
Usually the typical Northwest sports fan has a Chicken Little quality to him or her. You know, when something bad happens, the sky is falling. Heck, even when something good happens, they usually expect the other shoe to hit them on the head. But following yesterday's loss in San Francisco, it doesn’t feel that way with Seahawk fans. The defeat didn't seem to set off a tidal wave of worry. Read on.
From Pullman — Washington State's long wait is at an end. After 10 years and a presumably nerve-wracking final week, the Cougars are headed to the New Mexico Bowl … They'll face the Colorado State Rams, who we take an early look at here … Tickets can be purchased from the WSU athletic department … The Seattle Times has a story as well … As does the Denver Post.
News from around the conference after the jump.
Athletic director Bill Moos told reporters this evening that 2,500 fans have already reserved tickets to attend WSU's bowl game, regardless of which bowl the Cougars were invited to. With the announcement that it will be the New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque on the 21st of December, tickets are available for purchase as of 7 p.m. on Sunday.
Click here to buy tickets through Washington State University.
From Pullman — It's not official yet but all signs say Washington State will take on Colorado State in the New Mexico Bowl. So let's take an early look at WSU's opponent. Like WSU, a second-year coach has led the Rams to their first non-losing season in years. Under former Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain, CSU (7-6, 5-3) is headed to its first game since 2008, when it defeated Fresno State, also in the New Mexico Bowl.
Follow the jump for some statistics that should shed some light on the Rams.
From Pullman — ESPN's Brett McMurphy tweeted that Washington State will play Colorado State in the New Mexico Bowl, which is owned by ESPN. The game will be played on Dec. 21, in Albuquerque, N.M. Keep in mind that this is neither official nor confirmed, yet.
Washington State will play Colorado State in New Mexico Bowl, source said— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) December 8, 2013
UPDATE: The school has officially accepted an invitation to the New Mexico Bowl. Tickets are available through the school here, starting at 7 p.m.
From Pullman — Washington State will find out if, when, and where it will be going at some point today. Follow the jump for all of the final bowl projections, including my own.
UPDATE: Reports are coming in that Oregon State will take on Boise State in the Hawai'i Bowl. Fight Hunger Bowl directors told the Spokesman-Review this week that they will not be selecting the Beavers, leaving only the New Mexico Bowl as a possibility.
That could be the case according to Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel.
I'm told an MWC team (likely UNLV) now going to Heart of Dallas Bowl, Boise State-Pac-12 (Oregon St?) likely game in Hawaii.— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) December 8, 2013
The Hawai'i Bowl is one of the games run by ESPN. Earlier this week WSU athletic director Bill Moos told the Spokesman-Review that he was lobbying his contacts at ESPN to try and get WSU into one of those bowls, should the Cougars not receive a bid from a Pac-12 affiliated bowl.
While it is looking increasingly possible that Oregon will be invited to a BCS bowl, even in that scenario it would still technically be possible for the Cougars to need an at-large invitation to play in a bowl game. If that's the case, it looks like Hawai'i could be their destination.
UPDATE: As SpectreCoug points out in the comments, the post previously incorrectly listed bowls as being operated by ESPN. I was working off the wrong list and apologize.
Business is about to pick up for Gonzaga, which faces its first true road game Tuesday at West Virginia, then takes on South Alabama in Seattle and Kansas State in Wichita.
The Bulldogs enter that stretch following an 80-68 victory New Mexico State on Saturday, but they now have some injury issues with guards Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr.
More below in my day-after post (warning: it's a long one!).
A GRIP ON SPORTS
Can't quite remember a bigger Sunday. The Seahawks are in San Francisco for an afternoon battle with the 49ers. The Cougars will find out their bowl fate. And I promised Kim we would get a Christmas tree. Guess which one is the priority? Read on.
Video courtesy of Thomas Backman on YouTube.
From Pullman — There was only one Pac-12 football game this weekend and it was a big one. Stanford thrashed Arizona State to win the Pac-12 championship and secure a Rose Bowl berth. But just because the rest of the conference's teams weren't playing this weekend doesn't mean that there wasn't a lot of action that affected the teams. Texas lost, but Oklahoma won, increasing the likelihood of the Pac-12 getting two BCS teams. And the Heart of Dallas Bowl is more likely to take a Pac-12 team with Ohio State's loss.
The men's basketball team escaped Moscow with a win to continue their run of dominance over Idaho … Colorado knocked off No. 6 Kansas, their former Big 12 rival, in a big win for the Pac-12 … Arizona held off UNLV … The Bruins fell to Missouri … Utah stayed undefeated at home with a win over Fresno State.
A great crowd. A great atmosphere. A great game. But Idaho couldn't come up with one last shot — or one last rebound — against its border rival on Saturday night. The Vandals fell 67-66 to Washington State, and we have a recap from UI's perspective below.
Gonzaga's usual formula of 3-point shooting and a guard-driven, efficient offense needed some help Saturday.
It came in the form of Sam Dower Jr. (22 points), Gerard Coleman (21 points), rebounding (45-30 edge) and tenacious defense (keeping New Mexico State to a shooting percentage in the 30s until the latter stages of the game). It all added up to an 80-68 Gonzaga victory over the Aggies.
GU dealt with injury before the game (Kevin Pangos was a game-time decision because of a sprained toe) and during the game (Gary Bell Jr. exited early in the second half with a right hip injury). Bell said he hopes to be able to play Tuesday at West Virginia.
My unedited game story is below. I'll have a day-after post in the morning.