Jacob Thorpe predicts the keys to a Washington State win in the Apple Cup would be 1) score early; 2) limit big plays; 3) get the defense off the field on third down and 4) win the field-position battle.
1. Score early. Washington has been effective when it has been able to get an early lead. When playing from behind, teams stack the box against the Huskies, knowing that head coach and play-caller Steve Sarkisian is going to give ample carries to Bishop Sankey in order to take time off the clock. With defenses geared up to stop the run, the Huskies will utilize the play-action game to get big gains downfield.
2. Limit big plays. The Huskies trail only Oregon in the Pac-12 conference with 79 plays of 20 or more yards this season on offense. The UW has playmakers who can do damage in space, so it will be imperative for the Cougars to tackle well and diagnose plays correctly.
3. Get off the field on third down. Washington converts 51.16 percent of the time in third-down situations, the 12th-best mark in the country. WSU’s Air Raid offense is effective when it can wear down opposing defenses, something that will be hard to do if the UW offense can put together long, drawn-out drives.
4. Win the field-position battle. The Cougars have been struggling to punt the ball lately, averaging just 33 yards per punt in November. If the Huskies have short fields to work with offensively then Sankey and whoever starts at quarterback for Washington won’t suffer as much wear and tear throughout the game, making it tougher for Washington State to win a close one.