A GRIP ON SPORTS
Yes, we are back. Safe and sound. Feeling great. But, boy, did we pick a bad day to be out of commission. Read on.
• Posting yesterday morning would have been interesting. The Mariners named a coaching staff and lost one of their two-headed leadership group. Just think of the fun I could have had with that. The Seahawks not only lost one defensive back for four weeks, they lost another forever. That's just too sad, but worth writing about. And now it's all a day in the past. We'll touch on it a bit, but we're all about looking forward here, so that's what we'll do. We are going to look about as far forward as we can, all the way to bowl season.
• With the Apple Cup this Friday (the subject of today's poll), the college football regular season around here basically comes to an end. Then the jockeying for bowl position can officially begin. Though it already has. I assume WSU athletic director Bill Moos has been on the phone nearly non-stop, selling the Cougars – and the flag-waving Cougar Nation – to prospective bowl buyers. We did a little research (OK, we let someone else – WSU sports info guru Bill Stevens – do the research, but we did check with him) and what we found out makes the bowl-selling season all that more interesting. First off, let's remind each other of the seven bowl games the Pac-12 is aligned with, in order of selection. They are: 1) Rose; 2) Alamo; 3) Holiday; 4) Sun (El Paso); 5) Las Vegas; 6) Fight Hunger (San Francisco); and 7) New Mexico. Now let's take a look at the Pac-12 standings. As you can see, there are nine eligible bowl teams. And seven guaranteed spots. The conference is playing a bit of musical chairs here. So who goes where? Being definitive is impossible of course, but let's examine the possibilities. To do that, we are going to assume the favorites this week – Washington, Oregon, USC and Arizona State – are going to win. They probably won't, of course, but for the sake of discussion let's assume they do. In that case, we can figure Stanford, ASU and Oregon will appear in the Rose, Alamo and Holiday in some fashion. After that, it gets interesting. And where the research comes in. See, as far as the bowl selection goes, once a team becomes bowl eligible, as nine Pac-12 schools are, then the overall records mean nothing. All that matters is the conference mark (as Stevens was able to confirm recently). And the bowls were given the leeway this season of taking a school that is within one game of another, jumping a school with a better record to pick one that is more inviting. What makes a school more inviting? A lot of things, from players to coaches to matchup to TV ratings. But the be-all and end-all is money. Which school will attract more eyeballs to ESPN? Which school will sell more tickets, thus filling up hotel rooms, car rental counters and seats in the stands? That is why the Sun Bowl, which was burned by USC last year (pictured), may try to entice one of the three top bowls to take the Trojans, leaving an Oregon or the like for them. But, because of the selection order – if the favorites win this weekend, USC would have to be one of the top four choices – the Sun might be stuck with the Trojans again. Next up is the Las Vegas Bowl. It would have its pick of UCLA, Washington, Arizona, Oregon State and WSU. Those five teams will finish within one game of each other in the conference standings unless the Bruins figure out a way to upset USC. If such an upset occurs, the Sun might grab the Bruins. If it doesn't, Vegas seems like a perfect fit for UCLA. And that leaves two. So who will the Fight Hunger and New Mexico bowls take? Whichever of the other four schools is willing to guarantee the biggest crowd (read: most money). If Washington says it will buy 5,000 tickets, Arizona 7,500, Oregon State 10,000 and WSU 15,000, who would you take? Even if the Huskies or OSU or UA or WSU win on the field this week, they could lose out behind the scenes. You may not like it, but it is the way the bowl system works. Money greases every decision. Always has, always will. Do other factors figure in? Sure. And, again, that's where the Cougars' storyline helps. Ten years since a bowl. Mike Leach. The Air Raid offense. As the phone calls fly this week and next, all of these elements will be bandied about. But it will come down to which athletic director wants it more. And, with that being the case, who would you put your money on? Me too. … One other thing. Don't forget there are, as we type this, a couple bowls with open spots due to conferences not filling their quotas. They may still be there after the weekend. But wouldn't a late-December trip to the Bay Area beat one to Detroit?
• So if the Cougars end up in San Francisco or El Paso or wherever, I'm sure there are a lot of fans who will want to tag along. But maybe they won't be able to. Our former colleague, Christian Caple, spoke with Moos recently and found out he has, for lack of a better term, a naughty list. To paraphrase the most misunderstood Seinfeld character ever, the Soup Nazi, that could mean no bowl for you. John Blanchette thinks such a reaction is a bit over the top and says so in today's column. So what do you think? Are you – you know who you are – a little worried this morning? If so, have you already sent Moos another missive, explaining your comments weren't motivated by any Anti-Leach sentiment but just by your love for the school and its reputation? Just wondering.
• WSU: Enough of the bowl drama. It will all play out in a couple weeks. Let's get to what's happening on the field. Jacob Thorpe was at practice last night and has his usual report on the blog. That comes on the heels of video yesterday from Mike Leach's Monday press conference along with the comments of Deone Bucannon and Elliott Bosch, video of Jacob's discussion with SWX's Neil Stover and a post on academic honors. I also want to pass along the unit grades from the Utah game in case you missed them. … Jacob has a feature, of course, this one on the relationship of WSU assistant Dennis Simmons and UW head coach Steve Sarkisian. Jacob also has his Pac-12 power rankings. … There are the obligatory morning links as well. … Bud Withers has a story on Bosch. … The Apple Cup means many things for both coaches. And it has been a while since it featured two winning teams. … WSU's women couldn't get past BYU in Utah last night.
• Gonzaga: The Bulldogs bounced back from their first loss of the season by shooting lights-out against host Chaminade. Jim Meehan has the story and a blog post on the 113-81 victory. He'll also be back this morning with a day-after post. … Thomas Clouse has a story on the GU women. … BYU got to the finals of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic – and to the final minutes of the championship game before self-destructing. … We missed USD's first loss of the season but the Toreros did bounce back.
• EWU: When you win all eight of your conference games, it seems appropriate you would win the major player awards. Such was the case for Eastern as Jim Allen reports in this story and blog post. … Former Eastern and WSU assistant Jody Sears is out as Weber State's head coach. … Switching to hoops, Weber State fell to Utah State.
• Idaho: In our never-ending search for UI news, we pass along this roundup of college volleyball action.
• Chiefs: It's Wednesday morning – one more day to Thanksgiving – so we can pass along Chris Derrick's WHL notebook.
• Preps: Yes, there are basketball games going on. Girls' games in North Idaho. We have a roundup.
• Seahawks: We don't want to pass along old news, so we focus our attention today to the reaction concerning Walter Thurmond and Brandon Browner's suspensions. The gist of the matter is Browner is done with the Hawks and Thurmond will be back. Will the loss of two defensive backs – one who was already injured – it hurt the team, especially Monday night with pass-happy New Orleans in town? Pete Carroll addressed that and a lot of items when he met with the media yesterday. … The Hawks did make some roster moves yesterday to fill the gaps.
• Mariners: Don’t be so quick to celebrate Chuck Armstrong's retirement. At least that's the feelings of Tacoma's John McGrath.
• Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Hope you have time to read our post. We're going to do the obligatory post. You know, one filled with all the things we're thankful for. Don't worry. It won't be long. Until then …