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Fri., Nov. 29, 2013, 7:13 a.m.

A lot to chew on in this rivalry game

A GRIP ON SPORTS

Look up overstuffed in the dictionary and you won't see a picture of a couch. You will see me. I'm still reeling from too much turkey, potatoes, stuffing, green beans and two, yes, two, huge pieces of pumpkin pie. Every bite was heaven. And, after a day of feasting, here comes the real dessert. Apple Cup Friday. A football rivalry seasoned to perfection. Read on.

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• As I ponder which way to go with my pick this morning, I have to weigh – bad word to use today – a myriad of statistics. Then, as the saying goes, because it's a rivalry, throw them all out the window. Of course, after I clean up the mess outside, we'll still have to make a pick. Going into last week, I believed the Cougars would need this game to become bowl eligible and UW would be the perfect foil. The Huskies were playing poorly, the Cougars would be highly motivated and the game would turn on those factors. But then the Cougars won. And the Huskies played quite possibly their best game of the year. So I have to throw my week-old notes out the window. Man, it's cold out there. And the papers are hard to pick up. But it gets me to thinking. Which Washington team shows up today? And which quarterback plays? The answers may be important. The Cougars have been pretty darn good this year when the offense they are facing is one-dimensional (like Arizona, pictured). They've been able to contain good running teams that can't pass and control good passing teams that can't run. But if the offense can do both, be balanced in the jargon of the sport, the Cougar defense has struggled. It picks its poison, stops one aspect and oftentimes gets gashed by the other. We all know the Huskies can run the ball with Bishop Sankey and an improved offensive line. So it seems logical WSU will try to limit that. Which leaves the secondary, especially on the outside, exposed a bit. The question is, can UW take advantage? The Husky receivers have been playing well, most notably freshman John Ross, who has stepped up his game. But will it be senior Keith Price or redshirt freshman Cyler Miles trying to connect with them? Miles played efficiently last week but Price is the more experienced player. He has also led the Huskies to an Apple Cup victory. But I don't believe who it is really matters to Mike Breske and the WSU defensive game plan. If the Cougar defenders can stop Sankey, keep him in front of them and make UW march the length of the field, then that's a win. As they see it, the more plays, the more chances to force turnovers. Take the ball away a couple times, maybe even score once or twice, and the game is theirs. There is only one problem. Such things seem to happen more often at home than on the road. And this is the first Apple Cup in the basically rebuilt Husky Stadium, a loud, electric home-field advantage. If the turnover battle decides the outcome – as it often does – the edge has to be in the Huskies favor coming in. And probably will be in their favor at the end. That's why I see it 35-27 UW. At least that's what I think I wrote on my paper. After I threw it out the window, it was a bit hard to read. 

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• WSU: Of course there are enough Apple Cup stories to fill a deep dish pan, starting with Jacob Thorpe's advance in today's S-R. Jacob also offers the keys to the game for Washington State along with, on the blog, five questions with former beat writer Christian Caple (currently tied for second on the list of All-Time Review WSU beat writers) and a morning post with links. ... On the football side of things, we can also offer this Adam Lewis SportsPressNW story on Sankey (pictured) and why he is a Husky. (As an aside, the Sankey saga is another reason I always resisted reporting commitments from high school athletes. They are really not "commitments." They are just announcements. They don't mean anything. Some kids keep them, some don't. So why waste the time? Wait until signing day and see what transpires.) We can also offer two advances in the Times, one from Bud Withers and one from Adam Jude. ... Just had to pass this along. Hope I don't get on any naughty lists. ... There was basketball yesterday as well, with WSU falling to Butler in Orlando. Jacob put the box score on the blog yesterday.

• Gonzaga: Jim Meehan is probably back in the cold Inland Northwest by now, but he took time yesterday to look back at the win over Arkansas in Hawaii.

• Preps: John Blanchette uses this holiday Friday to showcase 8-man football in Rosalia. The Spartans have a date in the 2B semifinals this weekend.

• Chiefs: Spokane welcomes, if that's the right word, the Portland Winterhawks to the Arena tonight, hoping to snap a 12-game losing streak in the series.

• Seahawks: The Hawks took Thursday off, but released an injury report as if they practiced. As we all know, those reports are a work in progress. So when Pete Carroll says you shouldn't be alarmed to see Percy Harvin's name on it, you shouldn't be alarmed. ... The Hawks have had some great Monday night games (and some great plays against the Saints). In fact, they have the best winning percentage on the night. ... The Saints will be a tough opponent. ... Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell had some things to say.

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• I am so thankful for being able to burn a few calories this morning typing. I feel a bit less obese now than I did when I woke up. It's only a few hours to the Apple Cup then you can join Dennis Patchin and I on the post-game call-in show. If you can't get it over the air, use the TuneIn Radio app. It works great. Until later ...




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Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for spokesman.com. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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