The Iowa State Cyclones will take on the Washington State Cougars in the 2018 Valero Alamo Bowl, an exciting matchup featuring two very similar football programs. While Iowa State certainly doesn’t run an air raid offense and Matt Campbell is nowhere near as interesting (captivating, zany, etc.) as Mike Leach, these programs do have quite a bit in common.
The first thing both programs have in common is that they’ve never played each other!
Washington State University
Pullman, Washington is nestled into a rather beautiful part of the country (seriously, if you’ve never been to the Palouse region, it’s time to take a road trip), and is home to Washington State University. WSU was founded in 1890 as a land-grant institution under the 1862 Morrill Act.
WSU is known for their agricultural programs, specifically those supporting the area’s massive wheat and wine grape production. Animal/veterinary science is an important area of research as well, and the food science program is famous for their popular Cougar Gold cheese. Additionally, WSU researchers study sustainable agriculture, clean-energy technologies, and has one of the last remaining nuclear research reactors in the US.
Washington State Football
The Cougars come into the 2018 Alamo Bowl with a program record of 549-553 (.498) and a bowl record of 7-7 and 4 conference titles. The Cougars boast 7 consensuses All-Americans, led most notably by Jerome Harrison and Mike Utley, have 4 players in the CFB Hall of Fame, and have seen the likes of Ryan Leaf (ouch) and Drew Bledsoe entertain crowds in Martin Stadium.
The Cyclones hold a program record of 527-635-46 (.455) with a bowl record of 4-9 and 2 conference titles. Iowa State has seen 4 consensuses All-Americans pass through Ames, highlighted by the great Troy Davis (who should have won a Heisman Trophy), and has 2 players in the CFB Hall of Fame.
The two programs also share a coach in Jim Walden, who left Washington State in 1986 to come to Iowa State. Walden had a record of 44-52-4 at WSU, and left ISU with a record of 28-57-3.
Like Iowa State, WSU has been in their fair share of conferences. They were independent to start (1894–1916) and several times thereafter (1918, 1959-61), and then were members of the Pacific Coast Conference (1917, 1919-1958) before joining the Pac-12 Conference in 1962. The Pac-12 has taken many different forms, going from the Athletic Association of Western Universities (1962–1967) to the Pacific-8 Conference (1968–1977), the Pacific-10 Conference (1978–2010), and the current iteration from 2011 onward.
Likewise, Iowa State started as an independent (1892-1907) before joining the MVIAA (1908-1927) which ultimately led to the Cyclones being included in the Big 6 Conference in 1928. The Big 6 would become the Big 7/8 before becoming the Big 12 in 1996.
2018 WSU Cougars
The 2018 football season was undoubtedly one of the best in Wazzu history. Mike Leach led the Cougars to a 10-2 record and a #13 CFB Playoff ranking. The Cougars boast wins over Utah, Oregon, and Stanford, with their two losses came at the hands of USC and Washington in the Apple Cup.
The Wazzu are led by Heisman finalist Garner Minshew, a transfer from East Carolina, and his amazing mustache.
Minshew would finish 2nd in the nation in passing yards, 3rd in completion percentage, and 6th in passing touchdowns. The Cougars finished the season as the country’s top passing offense, which is air raid at its best. Their rushing offense, which finished 128th out of 129 in the FBS, is absolute peak air raid.
Some other Wazzu players to know include receivers Dezmon Patmon, Davontavean Martin, and Easop Winston. On the defensive side of the football the Cougars are known for the being strong on the back-end. Overall, the WSU defense a respectable finished 39th in scoring defense. They are led by LB Peyton Puller (86 tackles, 3.5 sacks) and Safety Jalen Thompson (73 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 4 INT), both of whom earned honorable mention all-conference honors. The Cougars also have talent on the offensive line, with two linemen earning all-conference honors.
The Cougars lost their first conference game of the year to USC before rattling off 7 straight wins. Leading up to the last weekend of the regular season, WSU was near the playoff conversation, sitting just inside the top ten. Thanks to a devastating loss to Washington in the Apple Cup (a game Mike Leach has only won once), they wound up in a tie for 1st, and did not play in the Pac 12 championship game due to the tiebreaker with the Huskies.
While the end of the season (and their bowl placement per WSU fans and their AD) was disappointing, the Cougars still had a tremendous season. Having a Heisman finalist, hosting College Gameday for the first time, and drinking Pullman out of Fireball and Busch Light are all accomplishments any football program would be proud of.
The 2018 Valero Alamo Bowl will feature an explosive offense vs a stout defense, pit two conference Coach of the Year winners against each other, and will feature two fan bases who are both eager to take that next step and are driven by their love of Busch Light. This matchup promises to be one of the best of the 2018 bowl season.