No. 18 Washington State gets a repeat Holiday Bowl bid, this time against No. 16 Michigan State

The Cougars put up an underwhelming performance against Minnesota in last year’s Holiday Bowl. They get a chance to fix that this year, as they earn a second-straight Holiday Bowl bid.

For the second year in a row, Washington State is headed to sunny San Diego for bowl season.

“We’re excited to go back to the Holiday Bowl,” WSU interim athletic director John Johnson said Sunday afternoon. “It’s really a tribute for our program, and to play such a storied program as Michigan State is wonderful as well.”

After finishing 9-3, the Cougars earned a repeat trip to the 40th annual Holiday Bowl to face Mark Dantonio’s 16th-ranked Michigan State team at San Diego County Credit Union Stadium on Dec. 28 (kickoff slated for 6 p.m., Fox Sports 1).

Michigan State finished 9-3, with a 7-2 Big Ten record, and was third in the loaded Big Ten East Division. The Spartans’ biggest win came in a 27-24 upset over then-No. 7 Penn State, but they lost games to Notre Dame and Northwestern earlier in the year, and were annihilated 48-3 by No. 13 Ohio State on Nov. 11.

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WSU coach Mike Leach is the first coach in school history to lead the Cougars to four bowl games in six seasons, and to three-straight bowl games.

Even though Leach reportedly interviewed for a job with Tennessee last Thursday, Johnson said Sunday, “Mike’s our coach today, and we expect him to be our coach at the bowl game. I know he’s excited to be our coach in the bowl game.”

Johnson’s comments on Leach were the first public comments WSU administrators have been about their head coach’s reported dalliance with the Vols. Johnson said he’s exchanged some texts with Leach since Leach’s meeting with Tennessee, but that, “he’s been busy recruiting and I’ve had  other responsibilities as well.”

WSU was ranked 18th in the final College Football Playoff rankings that were released Sunday morning, and going into this week, the Foster Farms Bowl in Santa Clara appeared to be the most likely postseason destination for the 9-3 Cougars.

But, lucky for WSU, the College Football Playoff committee selected two Pac-12 teams for New Year’s Six Bowl games instead of one. Even though the Pac-12 was shut out of the four-team playoff,  conference champion USC, ranked eighth, was sent to the Cotton Bowl to face No. 5 Ohio State, which won the Big Ten championship but was passed over for a…

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