The Washington State Cougars will take a Black Friday trip to Seattle to face the Washington Huskies in another classic, the 106th Apple Cup.
The Huskies opened the week as two touchdown favorites and are coming off of a sizzling performance against the Oregon State Beavers in Corvallis, a game in which they scored 69 points. They are facing a bit of a quarterback dilemma this week so it will be interesting to see which way the Dawgs decide to go.
Either way, the Huskies figure to work the legs of running back Bishop Sankey anywhere from 30-40 times in the game. The Cougars have had major issues stopping Husky backs over the past several years, except last season, when Sankey had a mediocre performance by all of his standards. The Pac-12 star only racked up 84 yards on 26 carries with two touchdowns and more importantly had a critical fumble that fueled the biggest comeback the rivalry’s history. Likewise, Austin Seferian-Jenkins only had 5 catches for 38 yards and a touchdown while Travis Coons missed a game-winning field goal attempt and Price threw an overtime interception. All figure to be extra motivated at home.
This year has been the Sankey show, as he’s already put up 1,575 yards and 17 touchdowns, for an average of 143 yards a game. Kevin Smith and Jaydon Mickens have stepped up big in the absence of an injured Kasen Williams, delivering nearly 700 yards apiece receiving and 9 touchdowns overall.
The Cougars could well feature a semi-balanced attack compared to what the Dawgs saw last year with the Air Raid. Running backs Marcus Mason and Teondray Caldwell have been ripping off huge chunks of yardage since quarterback Connor Halliday began calling more running plays in the Arizona game and continued against one of the nation’s most productive fronts in Utah. The Cougars ran the ball a legitimate 18 times against Utah, tallying 90 yards on the ground and not allowing a single sack. They went over 100 yards for just the second time this season against the Wildcats in Tuscon.
That’s not to say the pass won’t still be the overwhelming choice for coach Mike Leach and his suddenly scorching QB. Halliday has thrown for 807 yards, 6 touchdowns and only 1 interception in the past two weeks. Meanwhile his new top target, Dom Williams, has 12 catches for 223 yards and 2 scores in those past two games. Williams lit the Huskies up for 143 yards on 8 catches last season.
This game marks the first Apple Cup since 2002 that both teams come in with an above .500 record and that means a whole lot is on the line in terms of bowl status for each. Basically the winner has a chance to end up in the top half of the conference ranking, while the loser will probably end up somewhere in the bottom half.
For the Cougars, it could mean the difference between being in a bowl for the first time since 2003 or being snubbed by the selection committee for the second time since 2006, which would be an absolutely heartbreaking result for all crimson and gray followers. For the Huskies, it is the necessary difference between a semi-successful season or one that ends in horrifying disappointment and tough questions to be answered from the purple and gold faithful. One of those questions would most assuredly center around the future under Steve Sarkisian, which adds even more intrigue to the match-up.
So that’s a brief rundown of what we can expect. If you’re ready to get amped about this game (Coug or Husky), watch the video below, which I put together in anticipation of potentially the best Apple Cup in at least a decade. There have been some great ones in that time, but finally both teams have postseason stakes on the line at the same time.
It doesn’t hurt that the Dawgs are trying to avenge the most epic collapse in Apple Cup history last year (at least from the eyes tinted purple). The Cougs will see it as epic the other way. That’s just part of what makes this rivalry so special. The opportunity is finally here to prove it again.
Are you ready?!
Rivalry: Apple Cup
Date: Nov. 29
Time: 12:30 p.m. PST
Location: Husky Stadium, Seattle, WA (72,500)
Series: UW leads series 67-32-6
Last Meeting: WSU 31-28 OT (2012 in Pullman)
Odds: Washington -14.5 (Via Oddshark)
Washington State Local Radio: