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Pac-12 notebook: Rich get richer thanks to bowl games

PULLMAN – By qualifying for a bowl game, Washington State has taken the initial steps into a cycle that rewards good college football teams the opportunity to get even better.

The rich get richer in college football, while destitute programs fall further behind their peers. That’s because teams that play in the postseason are granted extra weeks of practice, and shrewd coaches devote much of that practice time to developing younger players who did not receive the same focus during the season.

“The extra practice time, the little boost it gives you in recruiting,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “That extra practice time is primarily for the younger players, that’s where you really take advantage of that. That’s been our MO all throughout years we do go to bowls, which is most years, and it amounts to an extra spring ball to get those young guys more fundamentally sound, more technique sound.”

Whittingham’s Utah team was a perpetual postseason program that experienced a stoppage in its bowl trips upon arriving in the Pac-12. One bowl-less season begat another, and then after breaking back into the postseason with a Las Vegas Bowl appearance last year, the Utes (8-1, 5-1 Pac-12) are off to their best start since 2010.

Arizona State coach Todd Graham is not in favor or lowering bowl standards to allow sub-.500 teams in, but acknowledges that if the Sun Devils finish 5-7, he will accept a bowl invite, standards notwithstanding.

For Leach, there’s no question he would accept any proffered invite and thinks there should be more games, not fewer. Of course, his often-stated preference is a 64-team playoff in which the champion and runner-up would play a total of 16 games.

“People that don’t like football probably want less bowl games,” Leach said. “I’ve always thought they should have more games to begin with.”

McCaffrey for Heisman

Stanford officially launched its Heisman campaign for star running back Christian McCaffrey, whose 2,174 all-purpose yards lead the FBS by 230 yards. Because Stanford will likely play at least 14 games this season, McCaffrey is on pace to break Barry Sanders’ single-season national record of 3,250 yards, which he set in 1998.

To lobby on McCaffrey’s behalf to the voters who decide college football’s most prestigious individual award, Stanford launched a website on Tuesday – Wildcaff.com – to highlight the running back’s accomplishments.

Frustrated Huskies

Not much was expected from Washington this season. The Huskies were picked to finish No. 4 in the Pac-12 North in the preseason media poll, and the Huskies haven’t achieved much more, sitting at 4-5 with a 2-4 Pac-12 record.

But the Huskies, who have the conference’s top scoring defense, came close to proving the people that doubted them wrong. UW lost games to California and Oregon by six points apiece and nearly completed a comeback against No. 12 Utah last week before falling 34-23.

On Monday, coach Chris Petersen gave some reasons for the Huskies to feel positive, but acknowledged disappointment with how the year has turned out.

“I think our defense played at a pretty high level most of the season. I think they feel pretty good about things,” Petersen said. “I think the offense has gotten a little bit better so I think they feel that. But I think everybody’s frustrated because they’re working so hard and everybody understands at the end of the day what this thing’s all about.”

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