COMMENTARY | Washington State may have had a rough go as of late, losing three in a row. But sitting at 4-5 on the year and needing to win two of three to become bowl eligible, the Cougars are best off going into the remainder of the season with the correct mindset.
Their remaining schedule is not murderer's row, and they have an opportunity.
Opportunity is the key word WSU needs to take to heart, because it has been hard to come by in Pullman for a long time. The last time the team was eligible was after a 6-6 season in 2006. Their last bowl game was the 2003 Holiday Bowl, a victory over Texas.
But the Cougars are in position to make something of this season. It is not a season that needs to be salvaged, by any means. This year has been fairly mediocre, and for a team that has been the Pac-12 basement dweller for the past several years, mediocre is not a terrible place to be.
WSU is 4-5 going into Saturday's match up with Arizona. Three of those losses have come against top-10 teams in Oregon, Stanford, and Auburn. In fact, that 7-point loss on the road at Auburn is looking pretty good considering where the Tigers are now.
Add in a loss to Oregon State, in which the Cougs were competitive for three quarters, and you have four losses that most Washington State fans can live with. Yes, the OSU loss was not pretty and probably could have gone either way, but the Beavers are a good team, and the Cougar defense simply couldn't contain Sean Mannion forever.
Now, WSU hasn't played since Halloween, when it was torn apart on an ESPN-televised Thursday night game by Arizona State. While thoroughly outclassed, the hardest part about the loss was seeing a nearly empty Martin Stadium at halftime being broadcast to the whole country.
If the Cougs want big-time games, and want to be a big-time program, shouldn't fans show up, and stay at least until the fourth quarter? That's a discussion for another day.
Getting a couple cupcake wins against the likes of Idaho and Southern Utah get a couple hashes in the win column, and they've even been able to shake things up a bit in the Pac-12 this year with wins at struggling Cal and an extremely rare victory in Los Angeles against USC.
This is where it all comes back to opportunity.
With three games remaining, there really is no reason that Washington State can't get to a bowl game this season. Facing Arizona, then Utah, and finally the Apple Cup against Washington will be a tough slate, but not impossible. Winning all three may be a bit too much to ask, but two out of three? Why not
If WSU can string together gutsy efforts like it already has this season and a few times across the last couple years, it can absolutely make a return to the postseason.
The Cougars will be the underdogs in every game remaining on their schedule. But that is nothing new, this is a program that prides itself on doing the unexpected.
The main difference for having faith this year as opposed to last year, or even the year before? This team believes in itself. And the Cougars have faith in each other. Also, they don't like to lose. They're learning to win. You can see the beginnings of a program turning around.
After all, what was the last time you heard the words "Cougs" and "bowl game" in the same sentence that wasn't referring to a decade-old win against Texas?
The truth is, the Cougs have three games left on their schedule for 2013. They are all tough matchups, yes. But all winnable.
Let's see if they can step up to the challenge and get us excited over something besides seeing a WSU flag show up at unrelated sporting events.Sam Becker lives in Seattle and is a 2009 graduate of the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. He has been a lifelong Cougar follower, and his writing has been published on numerous websites.
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