Apple Cup week has arrived!
The annual football showdown between the University of Washington Huskies and the Washington State University Cougars takes place Saturday at Husky Stadium in Seattle, and this year’s edition appears poised to be a good one.
The teams come into the game with identical records — 6-2 in the Pac-12 and 9-2 overall. The teams are ranked right next to one another in the Associated Press top 25, with the Cougars sitting at No. 14 and the Huskies right behind at No. 15.
Unfortunately, the game doesn’t have quite the magnitude of last year’s Apple Cup, which was a winner-takes-all affair for the Pac-12 North title, as well as a must-win for Washington if the Huskies were to maintain any hopes of getting into the College Football Playoff. Washington ended up running away with that one in Pullman, prevailing 45-17, and after defeating Colorado in the Pac-12 Championship game the Huskies earned a spot in the final four. No one’s playing for a final-four spot this year, though five weeks ago it looked like they both may be.
But there’s still high stakes for Washington State. The Cougars will claim the division title and a berth in the Pac-12 Championship Game on Dec. 1 in Santa Clara, California, with a win. Washington was already eliminated from contention by virtue of having lost to Stanford, so if the Huskies win it will be the Cardinal who face USC for the conference title.
Washington State had a bye this week, meaning the Cougars will be well-rested for the Apple Cup. Washington is coming off its dramatic last-second 33-30 victory over Utah in which the Huskies didn’t look their best, but still showed the fortitude to come back to win.
Statistically, the Huskies have a slight edge. Washington ranks second in the Pac-12 in scoring offense (36.5 points per game) and first in scoring defense (14.5), while Washington State ranks sixth in scoring offense (33.0) and third in scoring defense (22.9). The Cougars, behind senior quarterback and Davey O’Brien Award semifinalist Luke Falk, once again have the conference’s leading pass offense. The Huskies counter with junior quarterback Jake Browning, who leads the Pac-12 in passing efficiency.
The early betting odds had Washington a 9.5-point favorite, which seems high considering how even the teams appear on paper. But this poll isn’t about picking against the spread, it’s strictly about picking the winner. Who ya got?