Every preseason we take a look at potential best-case and worst-case scenarios for every Pac-10 team. While these are often tongue-in-cheek, they nonetheless represent the top and bottom we see for each team.
So it might be worthwhile to revisit each.
Next up is Washington State, which finished 2-10.
Best Case: 5-7.
What was right: A little. The Cougars did beat Montana State. They did lose to SMU, USC, Oregon, Arizona, Stanford and California. They were more competitive than the previous two seasons. Washington did show up at the Apple Cup at 5-6, needing a win to earn its first bowl berth since 2002. This scenario feels a bit closer to what might actually happen this fall.
What was wrong: Well, there's a big difference in two wins and five. The Cougars lost badly at Oklahoma State in the opener (the Cowboys turned out to be much better than most folks anticipated). They got overwhelmed in the fourth quarter by UCLA. The 42-0 loss at Arizona State was the low point of the season. Oregon State was the Cougars' only Pac-10 victory. The Apple Cup was tight, but the Huskies prevailed in a high-scoring affair.
Worst case: 1-11, coach Paul Wulff resigns under pressure.
What was right: A lot. The Cougars were far better in 2010 than the previous two seasons, but they still won just two games, and one was over Montana State, as projected. The "surprisingly competitive" game with Oregon State turned out to be a win. While the Apple Cup wasn't really about Washington quarterback Jake Locker, the Huskies did win because of a marquee individual performance -- Chris Polk rushing for 284 yards -- and earn a berth in the Holiday Bowl. As for Wulff, the Cougars' improvement earned him another season, but AD Bill Moos has made it clear that just being competitive in 2011 won't be enough.
What was wrong: Not much. The Cougars beat Oregon State. Wulff survived to coach into 2011. Locker didn't get an invitation to the Heisman Trophy ceremony.
Conclusion: While the "worst case" more closely approximates what actually happened, if you are a Cougars optimist you saw enough in 2010 to make you hopeful. The season didn't feel like a "worst case" because the Cougars showed marked improvement and actually put players on the field who looked like they had the potential to play on Sundays in the future. Still, the question entering 2011 is would this "best case" be enough for Wulff to keep his job into Year 5?