College football bowl season arrives this week, and the State of Washington has its hands full.
The first bowl games of the season take place Friday, when Charlotte takes on Buffalo in the Bahamas Bowl and Kent State faces Utah State in the Frisco Bowl. In total, 78 FBS teams are taking part in bowls this year — how in the world are there this many teams that are bowl eligible, considering there are only 130 FBS programs in the country? — and two are of particular interest to we here in Washington.
The Washington Huskies play the Boise State Broncos in the Las Vegas Bowl on Saturday. Then the Washington State Cougars face the Air Force Falcons in the Cheez-It Bowl on Dec. 27. They may be less illustrious bowls than these two teams hoped to be playing in this year, but at least with the Huskies going to Las Vegas and the Cougars going to Phoenix they’re both going someplace that isn’t freezing.
This was supposed to be a good season for the state. Washington, with Lake Stevens High School graduate Jacob Eason finally set to be unleashed at quarterback, began the year ranked No. 13 in the Associated Press preseason poll and was picked by the media in a virtual tie with Oregon to win the Pac-12 North. Instead the Huskies finished 4-5 in conference and 7-5 overall, and it was the type of season that prompted coach Chris Petersen to say enough is enough and hand in his clipboard.
Meanwhile, the expectations weren’t quite as high for Washington State, as the Cougars were predicted to finish fourth in the Pac-12 North, but they did received one first-place vote and were ranked No. 23 in the preseason poll. Instead, WSU finished 3-6 in conference and 6-6 overall, and if not for a miracle comeback in the final few minutes against Marysville Pilchuck High School grad Jake Luton and the Oregon State Beavers the Cougars wouldn’t be playing in a bowl at all.
In two of the previous three years the Apple Cup was the game that decided the Pac-12 North champion, winner takes all. I must have gotten spoiled, because I have to say it was odd having an Apple Cup this year in which nothing tangible was at stake for either team.
Anyway, UW and WSU are looking to salvage disappointing seasons with bowl wins, but neither team has an easy task. Washington faces perennial mid-major power Boise State, which is 12-1, the Mountain West Conference champion and ranked No. 18 in the nation. Washington State takes on an Air Force team that, behind a triple-option rushing offense that ranks third in the nation at 292.5 yards per game, went 10-2, finished just behind Boise State in the MWC Mountain Division standings and hasn’t lost since Oct. 5.
Washington, despite playing a ranked foe, is a 3.5-point favorite. Washington State finds itself a 2.5-point underdog.
So how does the State of Washington fare during bowl season this year? Make your picks here: