Washington State will have plenty of opportunities to fill up its bulletin board before it plays the first official game under new coach Nick Rolovich.
The Cougars got their first item on Wednesday when media members collaborated on the annual preseason Pac-12 poll, predicting a last-place finish for WSU in the North division.
As expected, defending champion Oregon was picked by media to repeat in the Pac-12, collecting 222 points as opposed to USC’s 220.
In the North, Oregon was followed by California (176 points), Washington (161), Stanford (105), Oregon State (76) and WSU (58). The Ducks hogged 35 of the 38 votes to win the conference, while Cal had three.
Like Oregon in the North, USC is the heavy favorite to win the South. On the heels of the Trojans in the media poll are Arizona State (181), Utah (168), UCLA (109), Colorado (63) and Arizona (57). USC won 32 first-place votes, while ASU had two and Utah had four despite falling one spot below the Sun Devils in the poll itself.
The Ducks received 21 votes to win the Pac-12 Championship game, which is to be played on Dec. 18 at a site to be determined. USC (15), ASU (1) and Utah (1) also were picked to win the conference title. The media has accurately chosen the Pac-12 champion in 31 of 59 previous polls and has done so four times in the nine years the league has played a championship game.
The media has consistently picked WSU to finish between third and fifth in recent years. Not since 2013 have the Cougars been chosen to finish sixth in the preseason poll. Before 2014, when WSU was projected to finish fifth, the Cougars had been selected to finish last in the Pac-12 North – or last in the Pac-10 – six consecutive years.
“I hope they don’t care, but I don’t think we’ll even address it,” Rolovich said Wednesday of his team’s response to being selected sixth. “Not that you guys don’t know what you’re talking about, but so many things can happen in a season and I think there’s so many unknowns. … I get we’ve got to do it and it’s fine. It works great for me, it’s just added motivation that we can give to our guys. But we’ve been picked last before in places I’ve been.”
More often than not under former Mike Leach, the Cougars finished at least one spot better than their preseason standing. With the exception of 2019, when WSU followed a fourth-place preseason pick with a fifth-place finish in the standings, the Cougars either matched or fared better than their preseason selection.
The best example of that came in 2018, when media members picked WSU to finish fifth and the Cougars, behind the play of quarterback Gardner Minshew, squashed expectations by winning 11 games and finishing runner-up in the North.
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