Washington State beats Stanford, keeps Pac-12's playoff hopes alive
No. 14 Washington State has sole possession of first place in the Pac-12 North and still has a chance to make the College Football Playoff.
A lot had to happen for both to be true.
First, No. 15 Washington — WSU’s bitter rival — was upset by Cal on the road. That meant the winner of Washington State’s trip to No. 24 Stanford would become the frontrunner in the North.
Stanford jumped out to a 28-14 lead late in the first half, but Mike Leach’s Cougars came all the way back with Gardner Minshew leading the way. Minshew, the graduate transfer quarterback from East Carolina, completed 40 of 50 passes — including a span of 19 straight completions to start the second half — for 438 yards and three touchdowns.
His best throw of the night came with under a minute to go. Stanford had just scored a touchdown to tie the game at 38-38. On the ensuing possession, WSU quickly faced third-and-2. Leach, trusting Minshew, took a shot up the seam and Minshew delivered with a perfectly placed ball to Jamire Calvin for a 35-yard gain.
Three plays later, WSU’s Blake Mazza drilled a 42-yard field goal to win the game and vault the Cougars into first place in the division.
Blake Mazza's field goal is good to give the Cougars the lead late in the 4th quarter! #JoinTheHunt #GoCougs pic.twitter.com/kwGV5jFaWS
— WSU Cougar Football (@WSUCougFB) October 28, 2018
Washington State: The Pac-12’s lone CFP hope
With the first College Football Playoff rankings of the season coming out on Tuesday night, Washington State, now 7-1 overall and 4-1 in Pac-12 play, will be the Pac-12’s highest-ranked team. With Utah, Oregon and Stanford as WSU’s best wins, just how high remains to be seen.
A few teams ahead of WSU in the latest AP Top 25 — No. 9 Florida and No. 12 Kentucky — lost on Saturday night, so there’s definitely some room to move up. The CFP selection committee’s rankings are usually pretty different from the Associated Press voters, too.
Washington State is the only team in the Pac-12 with just one loss. No two-loss team has ever made the field of four. The Cougars are the league’s last hope.
The Pac-12 North picture
Though Washington State now has a lead, it’s way too early to call the race for the Cougars.
Here are the remaining schedules for the teams still in contention:
Washington State (7-1, 4-1): vs. Cal, at Colorado, vs. Arizona. vs. Washington
Washington (6-3, 4-2): vs. Stanford, bye, vs. Oregon State, at Washington State
Stanford (5-3, 3-2): at Washington, vs. Oregon State, at Cal, at UCLA
Oregon (5-2, 2-2): at Arizona (in progress), vs. UCLA, at Utah, vs. Arizona State, at Oregon State
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