The University of Washington football team will spend New Year’s Day in warmer climes.
The Huskies accepted an invitation to play in the Cactus Bowl on Jan. 2 in Tempe, Arizona (7:15 p.m., ESPN), where the Huskies (8-5) will face Big 12 Conference opponent Oklahoma State (6-6).
“We’re really excited to be going down to the Cactus Bowl in Arizona,” Huskies coach Chris Petersen said. “I think the location is awesome. Who doesn’t want to be heading to Arizona this time of year? I know our coaches and players do. Hopefully at least part of the Husky Nation wants to come with us. So we’re really excited to go down there. I think Oklahoma State has one heck of a program.”
The Cactus has the seventh and final selection among bowls that guarantee bids to eligible Pac-12 teams. Had Arizona not finished high enough to earn a Fiesta Bowl invite, the Huskies would have been pushed out of the Pac-12 bowl picture and into an at-large situation.
But Oregon finished No. 2 in the College Football Playoff rankings to earn a spot in the national semifinals against Florida State, and Arizona, despite losing 51-13 to the Ducks in the Pac-12 championship game, finished with a high enough ranking (10th) to wind up in the Fiesta Bowl against Boise State.
The Cactus Bowl is the most recent evolution of what was originally the Copper Bowl (1989-96), then the Insight.com bowl (1997-2001), then simply the Insight Bowl (2002-11), then the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (2012-13). TicketCity is the official sponsor of the Cactus Bowl, which is operated by the Fiesta Bowl.
This will be UW’s fifth consecutive bowl appearance after missing the postseason from 2003-09. The Huskies are 2-2 in their past four bowl games.
Petersen said the Huskies will take more time off in the coming week as they prepare for final exams, and will return to practice and begin game-planning for the Cowboys the week after.
Due to the late game date, players will also be given time off to travel home for Christmas.
“I’m excited to really play in January,” said fifth-year senior defensive end Andrew Hudson. “I think it’s cool because it gives us more time to really prepare for it, and also enjoy the benefit of being with our families for the holidays. This is the first time I get to go home for Christmas in the last four, five years.”
Oklahoma State snapped a five-game losing streak by beating Oklahoma in overtime, 38-35, on Saturday. The Cowboys played a pretty tough schedule that included losses to No. 2 Florida State, No. 4 Baylor No. 6 TCU, No. 11 Kansas State, West Virginia and Texas. They beat Missouri State, Texas-San Antonio, Texas Tech, Iowa State, Kansas and Oklahoma.
“You always want to challenge yourself in life and in this game,” fifth-year senior receiver DiAndre Campbell said. “We want a challenge, and we know they’re going to be a good challenge. They’re a good team, and they battled back to get bowl eligible. … I’m just excited to play against them. We don’t normally get to play against teams from that conference. We just watch them on TV, for the most part.”