A College Gameday tradition was born during the 2003 college football season. That year marked the first time a WSU flag appeared in the back ground; that year was also the last of Washington State’s 10-win seasons. The apperance of the flag on Gameday was designed to draw attention to the recent-and recent success- of Cougar football, and to get the show out to Pullman. As you all know, Game Day didn’t make it to the Palouse in 2003.
And as any Coug fan can tell you, Cougar football fell of the face of the earth after 2003. Despite that, Gameday was still looking for an excuse to come to Pullman, and in 2011 Paul Wulff’s squad almost gave them a reason too. Against UCLA that year, the Cougs had a lead before allowing the Bruins to score and take the lead late in the fourth quarter; and then Lobbestael threw on the ensuing Cougar drive, sealing the Bruins victory. WSU fell to 3-2 heading into its homecoming match-up against an Andrew Luck lead Stanford. A couple of days after that loss, Chris Fowler tweeted out that if the Cougs had held on to their lead over the Bruins, College Gameday would have headed to Pullman for the Stanford game…ouch.
The Cougs only won one more game in 2011 (a Dad’s Weekend upset versus Arizona State), and head Coach Paul Wulff was fired after the Apple Cup. Mike Leach was hired in his place. Washington State finished the 2012 season at 3-9 and Coach Leach under investigation for abuse-an accusation that was proven to be false by an independent investigation.
Fast forward to 2013, and the Cougs are 4-2 with a 2-1 conference record; they’ve ended losing streaks to USC and Cal and they only need two more wins to be bowl eligible. The 2013 season has a pretty weak home slate (Southern Utah, W; Idaho, W; Oregon State, 10/12; Arizona State, 10/31; Utah, 11/23); so there is no chance in hell that Gameday is coming this year.
That being said, 2014 offers a lot of intriguing match-ups at Martin Stadium for the Gameday crew to look at…especially if the Cougs make a bowl game in 2013. The reason I say this is that USC, Oregon, Arizona, and UW will be making the trip to Pullman in 2014. Oregon will pretty easily be in the top-10 by the time they come north; UW is young pretty much everywhere and extremely talented (and the Cougs biggest rival); and USC will be looking for revenge with a new head coach. As for Arizona, Rich Rodriguez has done a pretty good job of recruiting but it is [probably] going to take time for that program to get back into the top-25.
If WSU has a winning record heading into the Oregon match-up, I have a pretty good feeling that that game is going to be the game where Gameday makes its long-awaited appearance in Pullman. The Apple Cup would also be an interesting alternative, and it should be back on a Saturday after spending 2012 and 2013 as one of the games played on Black Friday, especially if the game is between a top-25 Husky squad and an already bowl eligible Cougar team.
To answer the title of the post; yes, 2014 offers Washington State its best oppertunity to host College Game Day since the 2011 season.