What if I told you credentialed media has correctly picked the Pac-10/12 champion five times since 1992 on Media Day? What if I told you Washington State was dubbed to finish fifth in the North?
Yes, for one who doesn’t suit up on Saturday’s, it’s easy to underestimated them, but Washington State continues to impress. Breaking through barriers and cracking ceilings in an unprecedented fashion, even the loftiest of preseason expectations have fallen comically short.
Both, however, mean next to nothing for Mike Leach. While he remains uninterested in the opinions of the media, he is equally unsubscribed from the theory of a ceiling. Perpetually moving forward like a shark stalking his next prey, the Cougar coach – weary of long-term goals – remains micro-ambitious.
Get a day better. Win one game a week. Do your job. Don’t try to do too much.
All have become buzzwords, or rather buzzphrases, for the man steering Wazzu into what will be remembered as one of the best seasons in Cougar football history. And while Leach has changed the culture of the program, he can’t change the past.
Historically, ceilings at Washington State are very much real. 10 wins and a Rose Bowl birth are as good as it gets. No one has done more, countless have done less.
1997 and 2002 both made Rose Bowl appearances by virtue of a conference championship, but the then-Pac-10 crowned the best conference record with no questions asked. This time around, Wazzu would need not only to defeat rival Washington for the North title, but once again do away with South champion Utah in Santa Clara, California.
The gauntlet has grown more gruesome, but nonetheless WSU is doing something special. An 11th win – over rival Washington for Pete’s sake – has never been done. And with the victory earning WSU a bid to the conference championship, the Apple Cup is a necessity – opening doors to even greater possibilities.
An Apple Cup victory come Friday doesn’t just break a 5-year skid and grant thousands of Cougs bragging rights at work over the next 12 months. It cements 2018 as a year of unprecedent success over the past century, and gives the program a new standard of what it means to be good.
But Leach, a coach who seemingly suppresses emotion, isn’t likely to build up Friday’s matchup as anything more than the game against Washington. Years of uncompetitive matchups remain the biggest knock students and alumni have against the Pirate, but this year is different.
This roster fears none, improves in a seemingly linear fashion, and does their talking on the field. An 11-1 mark – much less a conference championship accompanied by a 12-1 regular season record – surly stands atop the Pullman gridiron hierarchy regardless of how the postseason pans out.
What if I told you credentialed media has correctly picked the Pac-12 champion five times since 1992 on Media Day? What if I told you Washington was dubbed to finish first in the North?
It’s Cougs against the world for a reason.