Washington State to face Big 12 foe Iowa State in Valero Alamo Bowl

December 2, 2018

The 2018 season may not end with a major New Year’s Six bowl for Washington State, but it’ll still end at a place many fans and prognosticators wouldn’t have expected it to when the Cougars opened fall camp in the early days of August.

WSU (10-2, 7-2) will appear in its fourth consecutive bowl game for the first time in school history on Dec. 28 when the Cougars take on Big 12 opponent Iowa State (8-4, 6-3) in the Valero Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, Texas. The Alamo Bowl will kick off at 6 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN.

“We are excited to be a part of the Alamo Bowl against a great opponent in Iowa State,” WSU coach Mike Leach said in a press release. “The Alamo Bowl does a fantastic job with tremendous people hosting and running the events. We look forward to a great week.”

The Cougars finished the season No. 13 in the last edition of the College Football Playoff rankings, one place lower than they would’ve needed to be to lock in a NY6 bowl. The Cyclones are ranked No. 24 in the CFP and finished their regular season Saturday, scraping out a 27-24 win over FCS opponent Drake.

If the Cougars didn’t crack the top 12 of the CFP rankings and were shut out of a NY6 bowl, many projected that San Antonio would be the destination for WSU and coach Mike Leach, who’ll be returning to the state where he spent a decade, from 2000-09, as the coach at Texas Tech.

However, most predicted a matchup between WSU and No. 16 West Virginia. Instead, the Alamo Bowl grabbed another Big 12 team with an identical conference record to WVU, but one with a lower national ranking.

“Anybody. Anytime. Anywhere. Don’t matter. We’re goin for number 11! #GoCougs” WSU quarterback Gardner Minshew tweeted Sunday afternoon.

There may have been more zest and appeal in a game between the Cougars and Mountaineers, who each have a Heisman Trophy candidate at the quarterback position, but ISU, under the direction of third-year coach Matt Campbell, still poses an interesting test.

Just two teams in the Big 12 are giving up fewer than 400 yards per game this season and only two are ranked top 50 in total defense. TCU is one of those and ISU is the other, allowing 351 yards per game. The Cyclones are also better-equipped to handle an offense such as WSU’s Air Raid, giving up just 228 passing yards per game.

ISU had its season opener against South Dakota State cancelled and the Cyclones lost three of their first four games, to Iowa, Oklahoma and TCU, before snagging a Big 12 win against Oklahoma State and closing the season with seven victories in their final eight games.

The only other loss for ISU came to a Texas team ranked No. 15 at the time, but the Cyclones did manage to bag a few ranked wins of their own, beating then No. 25 Oklahoma State 48-42 and No. 6 West Virginia 30-14 the following week.

In defeating the Mountaineers, ISU held quarterback Will Grier to 11-of-15 passing and just 100 yards through the air in the worst game of the season for the Heisman Trophy candidate. WVU finished the game with 152 yards of total offense – its lowest toal of the season.

Led by Minshew, the national leader in passing yards per game, the Cougars have their first 10-win season in 15 years. The Alamo Bowl will be their fourth consecutive postseason appearance, after trips to the Sun Bowl (2015) and Holiday Bowl (2016, 2017). WSU, which played in the New Mexico Bowl in 2013, is 1-3 in bowl games under Leach.

The Cougars have played in the Alamo Bowl one other time in program history, edging Baylor 10-3 in 1994. This will mark the first-ever meeting between WSU and ISU.

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