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First look: Washington State at Washington in the 112th Apple Cup

UPDATED: Mon., Nov. 25, 2019

Washington’s Jacob Eason, one of the Pac-12 Conference’s top quarterbacks, will likely have a big Apple Cup if a seasonlong trend continutes for the Washington State Cougars defense. (Amanda Loman / AP)
Washington’s Jacob Eason, one of the Pac-12 Conference’s top quarterbacks, will likely have a big Apple Cup if a seasonlong trend continutes for the Washington State Cougars defense. (Amanda Loman / AP)

What is it? Washington State (6-5, 3-5) travels to the other side of the state for the 112th Apple Cup against Washington (6-5, 3-5).

Where is it? Husky Stadium in Seattle.

When is it? Kickoff is 1 p.m. Friday.

Where can I watch it? Fox will carry the live broadcast.

Who is favored? The Huskies have opened as eight-point favorites.

How did they fare last week? The Cougars closed out their home schedule with an exciting 54-53 win over Oregon State. The Huskies couldn’t muster much offense in a 20-14 loss at Colorado.

Why WSU will win: WSU has usually entered this rivalry with the more productive offense, but the gap between the Cougars and Huskies hasn’t been this large in awhile. National passing leader Anthony Gordon has the Cougars averaging 41.5 points per game and 38.4 in conference games. Washington, meanwhile, is averaging 31.5 ppg and just 25.4 in the Pac-12. The Cougars have scored at least 30 points in nine games, while the Huskies have done it just five times. UW’s passing defense is still strong, allowing just 206 yards per game (2nd in Pac-12), but the Huskies aren’t as strong in the front seven as they’ve been in years past and they aren’t as equipped to prevent the run. UW’s run defense ranks just 10th in the Pac-12, allowing 156.4 ypg, and WSU has the most efficient rusher in the conference. If Mike Leach should choose to turn Max Borghi (6.7 yards per carry) loose, it would certainly catch the Huskies off guard. The Cougars haven’t run the ball more than 20 times in an Apple Cup under Leach and they’ve averaged just 13 carries in the rivalry game. Borghi, at 740 yards, has already had the most productive rushing season by a tailback under Leach, and he’s hit 100 yards in four separate games.

Why UW will win: Jacob Eason may have his critics, but Washington’s first-year starter is still the most talented quarterback on Washington State’s schedule, with the exception of Oregon’s Justin Herbert, and the Cougars haven’t exactly been able to limit a group of Pac-12 QBs who won’t be selected early in the NFL Draft. UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson, Cal’s Devon Modster, Stanford’s Davis Mills and Oregon State’s Jake Luton all had record days against the Cougars and WSU’s defense still hasn’t shown it can prevent an opponent from reeling off 8-12 explosive plays (runs of 15-plus yards/passes of 20-plus yards) per game. So, even if this is a down year for UW’s offense, it coincides with the worst defensive season WSU has had since 2014. Plus, the Huskies have a proven track record of limiting Mike Leach’s Air Raid, and that may even be understating it. In each of the last five meetings, since Chris Petersen took over in Seattle, the Cougars have been held under 20 points and their prolific QBs have been limited to five touchdowns versus 12 interceptions and under 300 yards on average.

What happened last time: A snowy 2018 Apple Cup left just about every WSU fan numb afterward. With a berth in the Pac-12 Championship game on the line for both teams, the Huskies never trailed but never truly put the Cougars away either. WSU fans were optimistic about their chances until the beginning of the fourth quarter, when Gaskin busted through a hole and chugged for an 80-yard touchdown that put the Huskies up two scores, at 28-15. The Cougars couldn’t manufacture anything on offense the following drive and UW ran out the final 8:47 to claim a sixth consecutive win in the series. Gaskin gave the home team all it could handle, rushing 27 times for 174 yards and four touchdowns, while the Huskies limited Gardner Minshew and the WSU Air Raid to just 152 yards in the air. Minshew didn’t pass for a touchdown, but he threw two interceptions. UW’s Jake Browning didn’t throw for a touchdown, but the Huskies did finsh with one passing score, when Browning threw to Aaron Fuller and Fuller tossed to Hunter Bryant for a 22-yard TD.

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