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Sports >  WSU football

Bowling in Sin City? The case for Washington State vs. Penn State in Las Vegas

UPDATED: Tue., Nov. 16, 2021

 (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
(Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
By Jon Wilner Bay Area News Group

A Pac-12 football season stacked with unexpected developments might have a few more in store, including this:

Washington State vs. Penn State in the Las Vegas Bowl.

That’s right. The team that lost its opener to Utah State, got blown out at home by USC and fired its head coach and four assistants in October – that team has a path to the second-biggest stage in the Pac-12’s postseason lineup.

The Cougars are one of several teams in contention to become the conference’s first participant in the reinvigorated Las Vegas Bowl, which has moved to Allegiant Stadium and features an opponent from the Big Ten.

Penn State might be that opponent.

Or maybe Wisconsin.

Stranger things have happened. For instance: Firing your head coach in the middle of the season for refusing to get vaccinated during a once-in-a-century global pandemic.

How might the Cougars find their way to Sin City?

• First, we should acknowledge that the Alamo Bowl is officially the No. 2 game in the Pac-12’s postseason lineup.

In reality, facing the Big Ten in Las Vegas trumps playing a Big 12 team in San Antonio unless that team is Oklahoma (which it won’t be).

• Second, WSU’s path is precarious.

The Cougars must beat Arizona and Washington to finish with a 7-5 overall record and 6-3 mark in the Pac-12.

That would make an appearance possible, based on the selection procedure.

For the Alamo, Las Vegas and Holiday bowls, the assignments don’t track exactly with conference record. Any of those bowls has the right to pass on Team X in favor of Team Y as long as there is no more than a one-game difference in conference record.

If the Cougars win out and finish 6-3, they would be no worse than one game back of Arizona State, which could top out at 7-2 in conference.

• That said, WSU clearly would benefit from a loss by ASU, producing a 8-4 overall mark and 6-3 conference record for the Sun Devils.

With a mere one-game difference in overall record, identical conference records and WSU’s head-to-head victory, the Cougars would have a case.

Bowls typically avoid teams without permanent head coaches, but WSU’s story is different, and compelling.

Plus, there’s no guarantee Herm Edwards will be coaching ASU come kickoff (because of the NCAA investigation).

So, yes, WSU. We’re saying there’s a chance.

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