The Washington State football team returns to practice tomorrow to begin the first of what could be many bowl practices. Or, it could just be the first of three. The Cougars will take the field on Friday and Saturday afternoon, and then again on Sunday morning. Beyond that, whether or not they practice again depends on if the Cougars secure a bowl invite.
Not a whole lot can happen on that front until after Saturday's conference championship games. Still, I've been talking to coaches, bowl directors and WSU athletic director throughout the week to try and see where the Cougars stand. Not everything has made it in the paper, obviously, so I've put together a few news nuggets after the jump.
- WSU athletic director Bill Moos told me that he's almost exclusively been talking to the bowl directors from the New Mexico Bowl. As the last Pac-12 affiliated bowl to make a selection, the New Mexico Bowl will likely be choosing among WSU, Oregon State and Arizona. Still, because other bowls WSU might head to such as the Texas Bowl, Heart of Dallas Bowl and the Independence Bowl are managed by ESPN, Moos is able to use his contacts at the four-letter network to lobby the other bowls.
- Coach Mike Leach responded to the news that UW head coach Steve Sarkisian has left for USC, saying, "He’s from southern California so I’m sure he’s probably excited to get back home. I assume whatever he said in that regard is pretty accurate."
- While it's still possible the Cougars will be left out of a bowl game, Leach doesn't seem too worried, saying, "Well, we had the toughest schedule in the country, we were one of the hottest teams toward the end of the season so it’s unfathomable we wouldn’t go to a bowl."
- The coaching carousel has begun to turn and there may be some WSU assistants to keep an eye on. The University of Wyoming is looking for a new head coach, and WSU defensive coordinator Mike Breske would seem like a natural candidate, having been the assistant head coach/defensive coordinator at the school from 2003-08. Outside receivers coach Dennis Simmons' position group has shown improvement this year, could Sarkisian make some overtures to his former BYU teammate?
- Moos acknowledged that the Cougars have an outside shot at the Fight Hunger Bowl, which most bowl projectors believe will be a matchup between UW and BYU. But if Oregon should backdoor its way into a BCS bowl then there would be two Pac-12 teams playing in BCS bowls, moving everyone else up a slot. There is also the potential that the Fight Hunger Bowl could decide to pass on a UW team that just lost its coach, but that is unlikely, according to Moos. "Could happen, that has happened in the past but I haven’t had any signals to that effect," Moos said. The Huskies will be coached in the bowl game by interim coach Marques Tuiasosopo.
- Tomorrow's practice will look a little different than most for the Cougars, something that may hold true for all bowl practices as many teams like to give their younger players extra practice time to prepare for next season. "Early on we’ll feature the young guys," Leach said. "And then depending on the time frame we’ll go from there practice-wise."
- One of Moos' pitches to bowl games has been that, if the bowl in questions is located in or near Texas, that the so-called "Mike Leach factor" would come into place. The theory holds that Texas Tech fans who were more supportive of Leach than the TTU administration during the coach's controversial departure from the school would be likely to pay close attention to the game, and perhaps even attend. The director of the New Mexico Bowl seemed skeptical of the theory, while the folks at the Heart of Dallas Bowl seemed to give it a little more weight.
- I received a statement from the Texas Bowl and didn't know what to do with it. So, here it is:
"With each bowl season comes the speculation of match ups for each of the games. For our games we work with our conference partners to create match-ups that benefit the league and the respective institutions; taking into account individual team records, geography and scheduling. We are looking forward to another great bowl season and will announce all of our match-ups over the weekend."