Washington State has made a living as the Pac-12’s dark horse for several years in a row, and it likely won’t end soon.
WSU, unlike many conference foes, seldom receives the benefit of the doubt. They consistently struggled to earn any level of respect when college football rankings are released.
The Pac-12’s annual preseason media poll predicted a fifth-place finish in the North for Washington State’s 2018 campaign. The previous three seasons, unsurprisingly, are not much more flattering.
- Picked 5th in 2015
- Picked 4th in 2016
- Picked 3rd in 2017
The Cougar’s linear climb almost suggests the voters were beginning to learn. But alas, they did not. In each of those three seasons, the Cougs ended conference play placed in the top three. And in 2016, they were one game away from buying a plane ticket to Santa Clara, California for the conference championship.
Preseason rankings are arbitrary at best. Not a lot of rhyme or reason goes into them; it’s merely the common denominators of any selected groups best guess. Of course, hammering out these very uncertainties is why the game is played.
Once the season starts up and the wins are all tallied, one would think Washington State earns their recognition; however, that’s not necessarily the case. Despite WSU posting a 19-8 conference record since 2015, Wazzu is often viewed as a second-rate school relative to the rest of their conference.
This season, Washington State is yet to play the cream of the crop, but many of those ranked ahead of them aren’t exactly slaying giants themselves. After decisive wins over Wyoming, San Jose State and Eastern Washington, WSU has seen their votes decrease weekly in the AP Top 25 Poll.
Unsurprisingly, Head Coach Mike Leach finds no interest in the opinions of writers and other media outlets alike.
“We won a bunch of games in the last three years, and they didn’t think we were any good those years either. I pretty much ignore that,” voiced coach Leach. “If I valued those opinions, they’d probably get a call. I’d ask them what plays we should run, what they like on third down and who we should recruit. Ironically, none of those people got one call.”
Perhaps that’s the way we all ought to look at it. While having a top-25 ranking branded next to your college’s name on national TV can be exciting, it simply does not matter.
At the end of the season, the win column does not lie. You are what your conference record says, no better and no worse. No amount of public opinion can change that.
If the Cougs are contenders this season, time will tell. And that starts this week with the beginning of Pac-12 play.
Washington State opens conference play at USC this Friday. Follow live coverage of the 7:30 p.m. kickoff at ESPN.