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PACIFIC 10 / CHRIS DUFRESNE

Cougars Likely Choice of Rose Bowl

November 14, 2003|CHRIS DUFRESNE

Washington State didn't make any float friends in Pasadena last year when the Cougars became the first Pacific 10 school in a decade not to sell its allotment of Rose Bowl tickets.

In fact, to the Rose Bowl's embarrassment and astonishment, the Cougars left gaping holes in certain seating sections.

So, we asked, would the Cougars be welcomed back with open checkbooks?

In a word, yes.

If USC wins out and goes to the Sugar Bowl, and Washington State wins out to finish 10-2, the Cougars will be first choice to represent the Pac-10 in the game Jan. 1.

Because of the vagaries of the bowl championship series, the Rose Bowl would not have to take Washington State in certain scenarios.

For example, if USC finished second in the BCS, the Rose Bowl would get the second at-large pick and could, if it wanted, take a higher-ranked team to play, say, Michigan.

But it won't happen. The traditional Pac-10/Big Ten matchup would supersede any lingering animosity the Rose Bowl might have toward Washington State.

"Of course," Rose Bowl CEO Mitch Dorger said this week. "They're a member of a conference that is partners with us. I don't know enough about what happened last year to say whether that was systemic or likely to happen again or whether it was a one-time thing. If I had to make a guess, I would say it is the latter."

Washington State has gone to great lengths to ensure that last year's ticket debacle will not be repeated if the Cougars return, completely revamping its ticket-distribution policy.

A few factors contributed to last year's ticket problem:

* Mike Price was a lame-duck coach after announcing he was leaving to coach Alabama. Price, though, insisted on coaching the Cougars in the Rose Bowl, against the wishes of many of his own fans -- and maybe his players.

* The Cougars did not officially clinch the Rose Bowl berth until they beat UCLA on Dec. 7, leaving fans little time to plan.

* The school's ticket-distribution system was not in place.

Washington State spokesman Rod Commons said this week some fans panicked last year and bought tickets through opponent Oklahoma. Others waited too long, then stayed home because of escalating airline ticket prices.

This year, the school sent out 35,000 fliers to prospective ticket buyers, asking how many tickets they wanted to whichever bowl game the Cougars end up in. Those tickets will be allocated after bowl pairings are made.

Remember, the Rose Bowl will not be able to take 10-2 Washington State if Texas Christian and Texas lock up automatic BCS at-large berths.

TCU could do that by finishing No. 6 or better in the BCS and Texas by finishing No. 3 or No. 4. TCU is sixth in this week's standings and Texas is fifth.

Pac Bits

USC fans rooting for Washington State to beat Arizona State this weekend -- USC gets BCS quality-win points as long as No. 10 Washington State remains in the top 10 -- please note that Cougar quarterback Matt Kegel may be a game-time decision because of an injured throwing shoulder.

Kegel's backup is sophomore Josh Swogger, who completed five of 16 passes for 84 yards, with two interceptions, in relief last week against UCLA.

What USC fans want, part II: An impressive victory over Arizona to assure the Trojans' No. 2 ranking in both polls; an LSU victory over Alabama to keep the Tigers at No. 3 in the polls and ahead of No. 4 Ohio State. If Purdue knocks off Ohio State, of course, then USC fans can start rooting against LSU. Got it?

Price applied for the Arizona job this week but the Tucson Citizen is reporting that Oklahoma co-defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, brother of Bob, is the front-runner. Arizona wants a full-time coach in place by Dec. 1.

Arizona fired John Mackovic on Sept. 28 and named defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz as interim coach.

Bowling for dollars: Nine of the conference's 10 teams are technically still alive for bowl bids, with 2-8 Arizona the only team eliminated.

The Pac-10 has six bowl affiliations -- Rose, Holiday, Sun, Insight, Las Vegas and Silicon Valley. Schools can make a bowl at 6-6 only to fill the Pac-10's bowl requirements. If USC and Washington State advance to BCS bowls, the conference will need seven bowl-qualified teams to fill six slots.

Because it plays 13 games this year, California, at 5-6, needs to win its last two games to become bowl eligible.

What has gotten into Stanford? Since losing to Oregon, 35-0, on Oct 25, the Cardinal has beaten UCLA and Arizona State to get even at 4-4. To become bowl qualified, Stanford needs to win two of its last three games, against Oregon State, Cal and Notre Dame.

Funny, only weeks ago, second-year Coach Buddy Teevens looked like a bust hire with a raging quarterback controversy pitting senior Chris Lewis and redshirt freshman Trent Edwards.

Edwards started earlier in the season, but Teevens has since turned to Lewis.

"People start choosing sides and make more of it than there really is," Teevens said of the Lewis-Edwards debate.

Teevens said Lewis' attitude and perseverance had "allowed him the opportunity to lead our team."

Washington Coach Keith Gilbertson revisits his not-so-successful Bay Area past this weekend when Washington plays at Cal. Gilbertson went 20-26 as Cal coach from 1992 through 1995 before he was fired and replaced by Steve Mariucci.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

PACIFIC 10 STANDINGS

*--* Conference Overall TEAM W L W L PF PA WASHINGTON STATE 5 1 8 2 313 191 USC 4 1 8 1 362 175 UCLA 4 2 6 4 204 210 OREGON STATE 3 2 6 3 287 198 OREGON 3 3 6 4 261 284 WASHINGTON 3 3 5 5 278 243 CALIFORNIA 3 3 5 6 323 269 STANFORD 2 4 4 4 160 196 ARIZONA STATE 1 5 4 6 251 287 ARIZONA 1 5 2 8 174 356

*--*

Saturday's Games

Oregon at UCLA...12:30 p.m.

USC at Arizona...4 p.m., TBS

Washington at California...12:30 p.m.

Arizona State at Washington State...12:30 p.m.

Stanford at Oregon State...1 p.m.

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