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Jim Moore Predicts: Iowa State poses problems for WSU in Alamo Bowl

Gardner Minshew looks to lead WSU to its 11th win of the year Friday in the Alamo Bowl. (AP)

The Cougars face Iowa State in the Alamo Bowl at 6 o’clock Friday night, and I don’t know how to feel about it or what to predict for a final score.

I’m conflicted on a personal level with thoughts rambling all over the place. I still think the Cougs should have been invited to a New Year’s Day bowl game, but then I remember that Gardner Minshew told Cougs like me to embrace the Alamo Bowl and Washington State’s chance to record an unprecedented 11-win season.

I know he’s right, but I’m still not as excited about the Alamo Bowl as I should be. The Alamo Bowl’s a great bowl game. San Antonio with its Riverwalk is a terrific destination. The Cougars beat Baylor 10-3 in the 1994 Alamo Bowl thanks to the Palouse Posse defense, so there’s some history there too.

And I keep telling myself that this season, even if the Cougs lose to Iowa State, will have exceeded everyone’s expectations anyway. A 10-3 season after the death of projected starting quarterback Tyler Hilinski and the departure of defensive coordinator Alex Grinch and D-line standout Hercules Mata’afa? Crazy to think how great this season has been.

Yet here I am banging away at my keyboard, not all that fired up about Friday night’s game. Maybe it’s a prolonged Apple Cup hangover. Every time I tell myself to move on from that frigid fiasco, I think about it and it still bothers me. The Cougs should be playing Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, not the Huskies. And if I’m a Husky fan, I’m telling me to shut up and reminding me that little brother should play better in San Antonio because the Alamo Bowl is in a domed stadium – no chance for snow to screw up the festivities this time.

It’s funny how I’m not that excited about a matchup against a 25th-ranked Iowa State team because it’s not the marquee program I was hoping the Cougs would face, such as an LSU or a Florida or a Michigan or even Central Florida. I say it’s funny because even though it’s not a sexy matchup, I actually think Iowa State is going to win the game even though the Cyclones are three-point underdogs.

I think this for several reasons.

• Iowa State has won seven of its last eight games and plays in the Big 12 Conference. The Cougars do not have a good record, historically, against Big 12 teams.

• Mike Leach has a poor record in bowl games. He’s 1-4 at Washington State, and the last two losses came to a Minnesota team that was decimated by suspensions and a Michigan State team that rolled over a non-competitive Cougar team.

• Iowa State handled West Virginia’s Air Raid offense this season and held high-flying Oklahoma below its season scoring average. With three weeks to prepare, I think they’ll be ready for Washington State’s Air Raid offense.

• It will be more of a home game for Iowa State than one for Washington State based on ticket sales, where the Cyclones have sold twice or maybe as many as three times more tickets than the Cougs.

• I wonder about the mindset of the Cougs. Could be wrong about this, hope I am, but if the players aren’t as jacked about this bowl game as Iowa State, the motivation factor will also be mentioned if Washington State has a long night. Hopefully the thought of an 11-win season and a fitting capper to a storybook season will propel them past the Cyclones.

• The Pac-12 is 0-2 in bowl games thus far and 2-15 in their last 17 bowl games. Hard to like WSU in this game after watching Cal lose to a TCU team in the Cheez-It Bowl considering the Horned Frogs’ quarterback was 5 for 17 for 27 yards with four interceptions. It’s the same Cal team that the Cougs struggled to beat 19-13 at Martin Stadium.

I fully understand that I’m frequently off-base with predictions in these posts, but going into this one, I honestly feel like Iowa State fans are going to be the ones celebrating with tequila shots on the Riverwalk Friday night. Cyclones 34, Cougs 24.

Alamo Bowl: No. 12 WSU’s Air Raid nothing new to No. 25 Iowa State