LOS ANGELES – It could be another successful season for Mike Leach and Washington State, but the league’s media members don’t think the Cougars have the making of a Pac-12 North contender, picking them fourth in the conference preseason poll that was released Wednesday morning.
The Cougars did collect one first-place vote, earning 108 total points, but fell below No. 1 Oregon and No. 2 Washington – who each won 17 first-place votes – as well as No. 3 Stanford. California was selected to finish fifth in the North, while Oregon State once again fell to sixth.
Utah was picked to win the South division and the Utes edged out the Ducks as the team media members expect to win the Pac-12 title game. Utah earned 12 votes while Oregon collected 11. Washington (9), USC (2) and WSU (1) also received Pac-12 title votes.
Below Utah in the South are, as follows, USC, Arizona State, UCLA, Arizona and Colorado. The Sun Devils and the Bruins shared third place, each earning 118 points.
Though the Cougars have two second-place Pac-12 North finishes in the last three season, they’ve never been picked higher than third in the preseason poll under eighth-year coach Mike Leach.
The media poll typically has not been an accurate depiction of how WSU finishes the season, though. The Cougars have either matched or exceeded the media’s prediction each of the last four seasons.
Last year, WSU came into the season expected to finish fifth in the Pac-12 North and won 11 games, ending the regular season as the runner-up in the division. In 2017, the Cougars matched the media’s third-place projection, in 2016 they finished second compared to a fourth-place projection and in 2015, they wound up in third place after being picked fifth.
The media has correctly selected the conference champion in 31 of the previous 58 media polls, but only four times in the last 12 polls.