The Washington State Cougars (8-4, 6-3 Pac-12 North) look to win their first bowl game in 12 years as they take on the Miami Hurricanes (8-4, 5-3 ACC Coastal) in the 2015 Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday.
Coach Mike Leach won conference coach of the year for his work in leading the Cougars from a 3-9 record in 2014 to their best finish since 2003. Washington State began the season ominously as they lost 24-17 as 31-point favorites at home to Portland State. The rebound was immediate as the Cougars won five of their next six games, including a thrilling comeback win at Oregon with their only loss during that stretch coming to No. 24 California. A two-point loss to No. 8 Stanford ended a three-game losing streak but the Cougars would win three in a row again, becoming bowl eligible with a 38-24 win over Arizona State followed by an upset of No. 19 UCLA at the Rose Bowl.
Star quarterback Luke Falk missed the final game of the season, a 45-10 defeat to Washington, but is slated to return for the Sun Bowl. Falk ranks No. 5 nationally in passing yards (4,266) and is tied for No. 4 in touchdown passes (36) to just eight interceptions. Receiver Gabe Marks led the Pac-12 in receptions (99), yards (1,125) and touchdowns (14), reaching the end zone in nine of 12 games. Miami ranked No. 12 in the ACC in scoring defense (28.8 points) while the Cougars averaged 32.4 points per game.
Interim coach Larry Scott looks to make his final impression at Miami before Mark Richt begins the new regime. Miami began the season 3-0 under Al Golden but lost three out of its next four, including a hapless 58-0 thrashing at the hands of then-No. 6 Clemson which led to Golden’s firing. Scott’s first game as coach featured one of the wildest finishes ever seen in college football when the Hurricanes stunned No. 22 Duke with a controversial last-second, eight-lateral kick return for a touchdown that was upheld after a nine-minute review.
Miami won four of its last five games, becoming bowl-eligible with a win over Virginia and only losing to ACC Coastal champion North Carolina during that time. Quarterback Brad Kaaya played the best football of his career during the regular season, throwing for 3,019 yards and 15 touchdowns. Washington State finished No. 7 in the Pac-12 in total defense (423.2 yards per game) as Miami ranked No. 7 in the ACC in total offense (401.8 yards).
The Sun Bowl pits a Pac-12 team against an ACC opponent, with Arizona State defeating Duke in the 2014 installment. This will be the Cougars’ first bowl game since 2013 and second since their last bowl win, a 28-20 victory in the 2003 Holiday Bowl over Texas. Miami has lost five straight bowl games, with their last win coming at the 2006 MPC Computers Bowl over Nevada.
Start Time: 2:00 p.m.
TV Channel: CBS
Betting Odds: Washington State -3
Prediction: Not sure how much motivation the hurricanes have going into this game knowing this era of Miami football is about to come to an end. A win in the Sun Bowl feels like it would be much more important to the Cougars, who haven’t won a bowl game since 2003. Not to mention, Luke Falk is the best player on the field.
Predicted Score: Washington State wins, 37-31.