Ed Stein, Site Expert
On the surface, the Washington State Cougars are slotted in just about the right place. There are several factors to explain it and when I’m done I’ll give one reason why they should be at least fourth.
I’m not going to say the PAC-12 is down this year, because it’s unfair. There are only two bad teams in the conference, UCLA and Oregon State, the other ten will play in bowl games. The PAC-12 is highly competitive and the teams have done a marvelous job of cannibalizing themselves, especially in the South Division.
The top teams in the south all have three conference losses. What was once a quality win for WSU over Utah is now nothing special. Their only loss to USC is greatly devalued. Additionally, both Cal and Stanford proved not to be the up to the rankings they had early in the season.
The Cougars non-conference schedule is weighing heavily against them. Coming into 2018, with a complex offense, led by a quarterback who was only with the team for a few months, the Cougs needed some tuneup games to get them ready for this season. WSU wouldn’t be the team it is without those games, so their pre-PAC-12 schedule is a double-edged sword.
The other big reason they are eighth is, with one exception, because the teams above them have earned their rankings. Bama, Clemson, Notre Dame, Michigan, Georgia, and Oklahoma have earned their places to this point. I don’t believe the third team in the SEC should be ranked ahead of WSU, but if the Cougs take care of their own business, they’ll jump Louisiana State.
Now here’s the case why the Cougs should be at least fourth. The USC game, which they lost by three points on the road in September. A blown non-targeting call on Southern Cal would have given WSU a first down on the Trojans 10-yard line, with 2:50 left in the game.
This season, Washington State has converted 100% in the red zone, on the road. We found out later that there was a third party (Woody Dixon) in the replay command center, who interfered in the process, and the play wasn’t reviewed.
An undefeated PAC-12 leader would deserve a top-four spot.