With the Pac-12 teetering on the brink of irrelevance in regard to the College Football Playoff discussion the past several weeks, Washington State athletic director Pat Chun believes that led to the Cougars' being ranked lower, at No. 13, than they should have been in the selection committee's final rankings.
"We can easily infer that where we're ranked is a result of maybe the perception of the league," Chun said.
Wazzu rose as high as No. 8 in the playoff rankings, but a loss to Washington in a snowy Apple Cup in the regular-season finale dropped the team five spots, and it landed behind three three-loss teams (Florida, LSU and Penn State) in addition to Washington. With a 10-2 record, Chun thought his school should have been safely off to a New Year's Six bowl -- most likely the Fiesta -- but instead it will play No. 24 Iowa State in the Alamo Bowl.
"We're very disappointed with where we ended up being ranked," Chun said. "We believe, as a 10-win team in Power 5 league, the manner in which our two losses came, statistically how we match up with the other teams in the same cluster as us, we believed our résumé ranked perhaps higher than where the committee thought it was, but they are empowered to make those decisions. We'll respect those decisions.
"We are not happy with where we're ranked, but we're ecstatic to be in the Alamo Bowl."
This marks the third time in five years that the Pac-12 will not have a participant in the playoff. It missed out in the 2015 season and last year, when Pac-12 teams combined to go 1-8 during bowl season. While these types of trends in college football have been cyclical, the conference's recent failures have been magnified by the playoff structure.
"We also recognize for WSU and the rest of the Pac-12, this is an important bowl season for all of us," Chun said.
Beleaguered Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott was allotted the opportunity to advocate weekly to the selection committee, but his efforts proved fruitless.
"While we are disappointed that they were not selected for a New Year's Six bowl, we made the case for Washington State to the selection committee through the established communications protocols, and we were aligned in our approach with Washington State in this regard," the Pac-12 said in a statement. "At the same time, we know that the selection committee has difficult decisions to make, and we respect the committee and its members."
WSU's first loss of the season, a 39-36 defeat to USC, was marred by controversy after a blatant targeting hit on quarterback Gardner Minshew went uncalled deep in USC territory with less than three minutes remaining in the game. A penalty would have given the Cougars a first down inside the 15-yard line down three points. Instead, they failed to pick up another first down, and a game-tying, 38-yard field goal attempt was blocked.
In the same game, a hit to the head of USC quarterback JT Daniels was not flagged for targeting, leading to more controversy when it was reported that the Pac-12's general counsel and senior vice president of business affairs, Woodie Dixon, improperly influenced the replay officials' decision on the play.