The Washington State Cougars were sitting in a familiar position Tuesday morning when the Pac-12 released its annual preseason media poll.
That is, with not much expected of them and lots to prove.
For the second consecutive year, the Cougars were picked to finish last in the Pac-12 North Division by the league’s media members. Just once since 2015 has WSU been picked to finish higher than fourth in the North, being selected third in 2017 by the media.
Media members overwhelmingly chose Oregon to win the Pac-12 North. The Ducks, who won the 2020 Pac-12 title after Washington was unable to play in the league title game due to COVID-19 protocol, collected 38 of the 40 first-place vote while the Huskies earned the other two.
In the Pac-12 South, USC, the conference’s runner-up in 2020, was picked to win a division title, gathering 27 first-place votes. Utah (6), Arizona State (6) and UCLA (1) each collected first-place votes.
The complete North picks were as follows: Oregon (238 points), Washington (189), California (140), Stanford (137), Oregon State (71) and Washington State (65).
As for the South projections: USC (223 points), Utah (183), Arizona State (170), UCLA (135), Colorado (88), Arizona (41).
It’s been relatively common for WSU to outperform preseason expectations. With a 1-3 record, the Cougars finished in a tie with Cal for sixth place in 2020, though two of their four games came against the teams that would play in the conference title game. WSU had three games against Stanford, Washington and Cal canceled due to COVID-19 and drew a regular-season finale at Utah, which finished third in the Pac-12 South.
In 2019, a WSU team that was projected to finish fourth in the preseason poll actually finished fifth. Aside from that the Cougars either matched or outdid their preseason projection in each of the four years prior, including 2018, when WSU was picked fifth in the media poll but finished second behind the production and leadership of quarterback Gardner Minshew.
The Cougars will face both teams expected to play in the league title game, hosting USC on Sept. 18 (12:30 p.m., FOX) in Pullman and visiting Oregon on Nov. 13 (TBD).
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