A GRIP ON SPORTS
It didn't figure to be an early morning today. After all, Husky fans probably slept in after celebrating yesterday's 27-17 Apple Cup victory and Washington State fans are still drowning their sorrows. But every hangover has a cure and there is one today. Read on.
• Well, it's a college football Saturday, that helps. It's the final full one of the year too, with crucial games, rivalry games, and games that mean nothing to no one except those associated with the schools. Next week is pretty much dedicated to the winners, so this Saturday may be your last chance to gorge on a college football feast. It's no fun if you have a headache, so take a couple facts and get ready. The first is simple. The Pac-12 has nine bowl eligible teams and seven spots. The Cougars are one of those teams. The seven bowls have a pecking order, starting with the Rose and descending to the New Mexico Bowl. The Cougars' 4-5 conference mark puts them in a pool with Washington, Oregon State, Arizona and possibly UCLA (if it loses to USC today), thanks to a new Pac-12 rule that allows the bowls to pick a school within one game of another in the conference standings. In other words, the bowls, who used to have follow the standings slavishly, have some discretion now. (As an aside, there is no comparison to 2006, when the Cougars finished at 6-6 and were left home. Then, WSU was only "conditionally bowl eligible" with a 6-6 record. Under the then-NCAA rules, all 7-5 and better teams had to be chosen first before a 6-6 team could be picked. There were not enough bowl spots available and a 6-6 WSU team stayed home. The rules have now changed. A 6-6 team can be picked and an 8-4 team, theoretically, could stay home.) If the Las Vegas or Kraft Fight Hunger wants WSU over any of the teams in the pool of 5-4 or 4-5, then they can pick them. (Another aside: A win yesterday would not have guaranteed WSU anything. It would have made the Cougars more attractive, but it still would have kept them in the same pool with the other Pac-12 schools listed above.) That's the mechanics of the bowl selection machine for the Pac-12. The other is there are bowls out there, from the Heart of Dallas on Jan. 1 to the Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Ala., on Jan. 4 that need a team, due to conferences not having enough to fill their contracted spots. There are at least fives spots that are up for grabs. Will it be tough? Sure. But all that matters is how badly a school wants to play in a bowl game. As John Blanchette's column from the Apple Cup shows, the Cougars want to go more than anything. And where there is a will, there is a way, right? That should ease your headache a bit. Oh, and one other thing. Just about every reputable bowl prediction out there had the Cougars in a bowl game yesterday, though CBSSports.com's Jerry Palm dropped them after the loss, replacing them in the Little Caesar's Bowl with a Pitt team that also lost. And one of the West Coast's most in-touch college beat writers, Jon Wilner, thinks the New Mexico Bowl will pick them.
• Washington State's six wins – and the ensuing bowl eligibility – allows the Cougars to do one thing: practice this week. The extra five or so practices until the bowl selections become official should, if nothing else, help next year.
• WSU: OK, there is so much to pass along I'm not sure you'll have enough time to peruse it. We'll start with Jacob Thorpe's game story from the Apple Cup, because the S-R beat writer's piece is always the most important, right (just check your head yes and we'll be able to get along). From there we move to the two sidebars, one on Bishop Sankey's excellent game (pictured) and another on center Elliott Bosch. Both are by Jim Allen. He and Jacob also combined on this notebook. We also can pass along the usual keys to the game, statistics and scoring. Photographer Tyler Tjomsland was also in Seattle and put together this photo story. ... From the blog yesterday and today, Jacob has interviews with Mike Leach (video and in words) along with video from a whole army of Cougars: Bosch, Connor Halliday, Deone Bucannon, Marcus Mason, Ioane Gauta, Nolan Washington – a quick note about Nolan: A Seattle guy, he used to mention one of his goals at WSU was to get an interception in the Apple Cup; he checked that bucket list item off early in yesterday's game – and Darryl Monroe. There are also the postgame WSU notes, a pregame chat and, this morning, links from around the conference. ... In the spirit of supplying you as much as we can, we pass along Christian Caple's game story and Dave Boling's column from the News Tribune and Jerry Brewer's column from the Times. We also can pass along a few other items from the Times, plus Art Thiel's column and the Friday mailbag from ESPN.com's Pac-12 blog. ... The basketball team earned a win yesterday, roaring back in the second half to blow out Purdue. Jacob posted the box score on the blog yesterday. Check the score by halves for the Cougars. ... Former WSU player Patrick Simon hit 10 3-pointers yesterday for Seattle Pacific.
• Preps: There are a Simpson's handful of local playoff games today, with the biggest – and the subject of Greg Lee's advance – out at Albi pitting perennial 3A power Bellevue (12-0) with Shadle Park (11-1).
• Seahawks: If you decide to head across the mountains and buy your way into Monday's night's showdown with Drew Brees and the Saints, it is going to cost you a lot of money. But it just might be worth it. ... You may not see Percy Harvin play, however, as he was on the injury list for a second consecutive day. ... You will get to watch one of the best tight ends in the business, Jimmy Graham, try to work himself free against the Hawks' secondary. I'm guessing he earns at least three PI calls. ... Every game is a big one for Russell Wilson.
• Grab a seat and relax. It is the final full Saturday of college football's regular season, so enjoy. You won't get to experience it again until next August. Until later ...