By Jacob Thorpe The Spokesman-Review
PULLMAN — When Mike Leach was the head coach at Texas Tech the Red Raiders went to 10 consecutive bowl games. One of the perks of postseason play was the extra practice time allotted to bowl teams.
While all teams are limited to 15 practices in the spring, the NCAA places no cap on the number of practices a team can squeeze in prior to a bowl game.
“I think it’s incredibly helpful. We went to 10 straight bowls and I thought in the middle of 10 straight bowls that everybody should have the (extra) practice opportunities because it’s a definite advantage,” Leach said. “And then your young guys, you know, you can work them and the young guys will have improved a lot since camp.”
The Cougars (5-5, 3-4 Pacific-12 Conference) become bowl eligible with a victory against Utah today. The last time WSU played in a bowl game was 2003, and the last time the Cougars were eligible was 2006.
After defeating Arizona last weekend, WSU is hoping to put together its first winning streak since September. With the Arizona victory under their belts, the Cougars believe their positive momentum can give them an advantage today.
“I think so just because you have that confidence coming in,” senior Elliott Bosch said. “Guys believe in what we’re doing, it just carries you and gives you momentum into next week.”
Under NCAA guidelines, any team that finishes with a .500 or better record and only one or fewer games against non-Football Bowl Subdivision teams is eligible to play in a bowl game.
However, there are a finite number of bowls and it is mathematically possible to qualify and not receive a bowl invitation, as occurred in 2006 when both WSU and Arizona were left out with 6-6 records.
“It’s never happened to me. And it shouldn’t happen at all, especially in this conference,” Leach said.
It could happen to a Pac-12 team this season. The conference has contracts with seven bowls and is unlikely to send a team to the BCS championship game. With eight teams already bowl eligible and WSU, Utah and Colorado still mathematically in the mix, the Pac-12 could have as many as ten teams qualified to play in the postseason.
If other conferences do not have enough teams reach a .500 record, then the bowls they have tie-ins with will look elsewhere. The American Athletic Conference and Big 12 are leagues that likely won’t have enough bowl-eligible teams.
The Atlantic Coast Conference already has filled its bowl allotment, as have the Big Ten, the Mountain West and Sun Belt conferences. If Texas-San Antonio wins one of its final two games then Conference USA will have as well.
The Mid-American Conference only has tie-ins with three bowl games, yet has six teams qualified.
To be eligible for any bowl, the Cougars still need to win one of their final two games. With that in mind, WSU players say they’re doing their best to block out any postseason thoughts, lest they become distracted.
“Around the program, we’re trying not to talk about that,” Bosch said. “Our main goal this year has been to focus on the task at hand one week at a time and win one game that Saturday. (The idea of being bowl eligible) gives you a little extra but we’re trying not to talk about it.”