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The bowl matchups are below, but I wanted to start with a few items of note that don’t involve specific matchups.
The top story of the day, by far, was Washington State’s lack of upward movement. The Cougars (10-2) didn’t jump into the New Year’s Six and remained No. 13 in the committee rankings.
In that position, they’re behind three 9-3 non-champions (Florida, LSU and Penn State).
WSU (publicly) and Pac-12 (privately) pushed for the committee to reconsider its treatment of the Cougars … and got nowhere.
The Hotline reached out to the conference office and asked if commissioner Larry Scott had a reaction to WSU’s situation.
Here’s the response, in full:
“Washington State University had a fantastic season, a very strong record, and captured the attention of the nation with their thrilling style of play and remarkable competitiveness in every game. While we are disappointed that they were not selected for a New Year’s Six bowl, we made the case for Washington State to the selection committee through the established communications protocols, and we were aligned in our approach with Washington State in this regard. At the same time, we know that the selection committee has difficult decisions to make, and we respect the committee and its members.
“This has been a great year for Washington State, and we are delighted they will be our Pac-12 representative at the Alamo Bowl against a highly regarded and ranked Iowa State team. The game will present an excellent opportunity for Washington State to once again showcase their team to a national audience.”
The Cougars’ fate should alarm the conference and its membership — it should be (yet another) indication that the Pac-12 football product needs fixing.
Not only must the on-field performance improve, but so must the underlying structure (scheduling, exposure, officiating, etc.).
The conference is falling further behind its Power Five peers by the year. If that continues, the long-term implications for all Pac-12 sports are significant.
The committee undoubtedly had specific issues with WSU (i.e., non-conference schedule, lack of quality wins), but the Cougars were surely weighed down by the Pac-12’s dreadful non-conference results.
When your champion loses to a fifth-place team in another conference — to cite one example — that’s a plague on everyone’s house.
Was WSU’s ranking a sign of outright disrespect for the Pac-12? One could make that case.
(Yes, Washington was the highest-ranked three-loss team, but the Huskies had a resume tiebreaker over Penn State, LSU and Florida in the form of a conference title.)
WSU’s omission means the Pac-12 will have one team in the non-playoff portion of the New Year’s Six and, for the third time in the past four years, no participant in the semifinals.
How does that compare?
Here are the total playoff bids for the Power Five through five years of the CFP:
Big Ten: 3
Big 12: 3
Notre Dame: 1
And now the non-playoff bids to the New Year’s Six:
Big Ten: 11
Big 12: 5
Total New Year’s Six bids:
Big Ten: 14
Big 12: 8
On a slightly smaller scale (regional, not national), the conference collected a victory Sunday:
Utah was invited to the Holiday Bowl instead of falling to the Sun. The the latter scenario would have been a slap in the face to the conference runner-up.
The Holiday, per sources, was leaning to Oregon. But Utah athletic director Mark Harlan and the conference office lobbied for a bid.
(The strong turnout by Utah fans at Levi’s Stadium on Friday surely helped convinced the Holiday of a looming red sea of ticket sales and hotel bookings.)
Frankly, the Utes deserved a break. Combine highly questionable calls in two of their losses with the key injuries and the difficult cross-division schedule, and they had to navigate a series of obstacles not of their own making.
Had they been shipped to the Sun Bowl after playing for the Rose, the would have been outrage from one of the conference’s most passionate fan bases.
What’s more, Utah’s berth in the Holiday made the Redbox happy. The Levi’s Stadium-based game was able to invite Oregon, the team it wanted all along, instead of Stanford.
Here’s the lineup:
Rose Bowl: Washington (10-3) vs. Ohio State (12-1)
Kickoff: 2 p.m./ESPN
Comment: First trip to the Granddaddy for UW in 18 years. Better than the playoff against Alabama? I’d imagine a few Huskies fans feel that way.
Alamo Bowl: Washington State (10-2) vs. Iowa State (8-4)
Kickoff: 6 p.m./ESPN
Comment: ISU’s defense held Oklahoma to 37 points, which was 12 under the Sooners’ average. Cyclones are sneaky good.
Holiday Bowl: Utah (9-4) vs Northwestern (8-5)
Kickoff: 4 p.m./FS1
Comment: Yes, the Wildcats have five losses. But three were to Notre Dame, Michigan and Ohio State.
Redbox Bowl: Oregon (8-4) vs. Michigan State (7-5)
Comment: Two teams that, one could argue, underachieved this season. Spartans were No. 12 in the AP preseason poll, Ducks No. 24. Will Justin Herbert play?
Sun Bowl: Stanford (8-4) vs. Pittsburgh (7-6)
Kickoff: 11 a.m./CBS
Comment: The Holiday Bowl’s flip (to Utah) opened the Redbox for Oregon and pushed Stanford down to the Sun, where it played two years ago (North Carolina).
Las Vegas Bowl: ASU (7-5) vs. Fresno State (11-2)
Kickoff: 12:30 p.m./ABC
Comment: Could be the best game of ’em all. Also vital for the Pac-12, which already has a head-to-head loss to the Bulldogs (UCLA).
Cheez-It: Cal (7-5) vs. TCU (6-6)
Kickoff: 6 p.m./ESPN
Comment: Bears were destined for the lowest bowl on the ladder because of their conference record. Two of the best-coached defenses in the country.
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