The 2018 football season ended on a historical note for Washington State and it looks as though the 2019 edition will start on one.
Last season, the 11-win Cougars finished the season ranked No. 10 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, which signified the first time in school history they ended the year as the top-ranked team in the Pac-12 Conference.
Thursday morning, when USA Today released its preseason Amway Coaches Poll, the Cougars found themselves in another unfamiliar yet satisfying position.
For the first time in 15 years, WSU will open the season ranked in the Coaches Poll. The Cougars’ initial ranking of No. 21 marks the program’s highest since 2002, when a team led by quarterback Jason Gesser opened the year ranked No. 14.
WSU narrowly missed out on a preseason Top 25 nod in the Coaches Poll last season, leading the unranked teams with 99 votes received.
The Cougars, entering their eighth season under coach Mike Leach, earned 274 points to edge out No. 22 Syracuse this year. Their place in the Coaches Poll suggests WSU could open the year ranked in the preseason Associated Press Top 25, which is scheduled to come out on Aug. 19.
WSU was one of five teams from the Pac-12 to appear in Thursday’s Coaches Poll, joining No. 12 Washington, No. 13 Oregon, No. 15 Utah and No. 23 Stanford. It’s the first time since 2016 the conference has placed at least five teams in the annual preseason poll.
With the exception of Colorado, every other Pac-12 team had placed a team in the preseason poll since the Cougars last did in 2004.
Even though the Cougars have pieced together four consecutive seasons of eight wins or more under Leach, 2018 was the first time WSU finished a season ranked inside the Top 25 of the Coaches Poll.
Clemson won a majority of the first-place voted Thursday and will open the season ranked No. 1 in the poll for the first time in program history. Rounding out the top 10 were No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Georgia, No. 4 Oklahoma, No. 5 Ohio State, No. 6 LSU, No. 7 Michigan, No. 8 Florida, No. 9 Notre Dame and No. 10 Texas.