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First Look: Washington State vs. Washington

Washington State will have to contain Washington running back Chris Polk, who ran for 284 yards against the Cougars last season. (Christopher Anderson)
Washington State will have to contain Washington running back Chris Polk, who ran for 284 yards against the Cougars last season. (Christopher Anderson)
Time: 4:30 p.m. (PST) Saturday, CenturyLink Field. TV: Versus Records: WSU (4-7, 2-6 in Pac-12); Washington (6-5, 4-4) Last week: WSU lost to Utah, 30-27 in overtime. UW lost at Oregon State, 38-21. Last time: UW defeated WSU, 35-28, in 2010 The line: UW by 6.5.

What it means for WSU

After falling inches short on their last drive of regulation, the Cougars saw their bowl hopes disappear in overtime last week. So they must regroup. There is no better game for that than the Apple Cup. But the usual rivalry buzz that surrounds Husky Stadium will not be heard this year, as Washington has already closed the venerable facility for a facelift. The game is down I-5 at CenturyLink, a place well known to the Cougars and their fans. How that affects Saturday’s game will be interesting to see. A win would give the younger WSU players a taste of success in this rivalry, after two consecutive losses to the Huskies.

What it means for Washington

So which team has a better record this month? Surprisingly, considering how well the Huskies have played at times this season, the answer to that question is WSU. Washington is in the throes of a three-game losing streak, making this week’s contest crucial if coach Steve Sarkisian wants to continue to show progress. UW was 5-7 his first year, 6-6 in the regular season last year and is 6-5 now. A win and the progression remains linear. He said Monday that’s important for him and his team.

Key matchup

UW running back Chris Polk and WSU’s linebackers. The teams were about as even as they could be last season in Pullman, with the Huskies having one big, fast edge. That would be Polk, who ran for a career-high 284 yards on 29 carries and scored twice. Containing the 5-foot-11, 222-pound junior, who has rushed for 1,274 yards this season, falls mainly on the shoulders of the Cougars’ linebackers. Alex Hoffman-Ellis, who leads WSU with 80 tackles, is the one constant. But four players have been manning the other two spots recently, with freshman Chester Su’a spelling Sekope Kaufusi and his bum shoulder on the outside and senior Mike Ledgerwood doing the same for C.J. Mizell, slowed by a variety of injuries, inside. If the group doesn’t at least slow down Polk, the Huskies could run away with this game.
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