SEATTLE – Set aside for a moment all the noise surrounding this rivalry game – its mostly one-sided history, its anxious build-up and all the annual smack talk.
To some considerable extent, football success comes down to talent – and the consistency with which that talent executes – and inspiration.
In 2021, Washington State is the better team, a more well-oiled team.
And WSU is the more inspired team.
I don’t believe it matters the Cougars haven’t won in Seattle in 14 years – and haven’t been competitive against their intrastate foes in the past seven Apple Cups overall.
On paper, WSU has the edge over Washington at almost every position – except defensive backs, perhaps.
But UW’s advantage in the secondary might be overstated, considering the Huskies will be facing a more explosive quarterback than they have yet in Jayden de Laura, the charismatic sophomore from Hawaii who’s never experienced this rivalry.
UW interim coach Bob Gregory said it himself: “It’s a different kind of offense than we’ve seen.”
This isn’t the Air Raid anymore. It’s the free-flowing run-and-shoot, featuring two capable, often-used tailbacks and a pair of star slotbacks who have emerged among the Pac-12’s top pass-catchers.
There’s a revitalized spirit with these Cougars, spearheaded by a rousing bunch of upperclassmen and a sharp defensive coordinator who’s starting to look more like a head coach.
All considered, I’ve got a hunch. The eastern Washingtonians won’t get caught up in all the hubbub, like WSU squads of the past decade always seemed to.
Nothing has fazed the Cougars much this year, so why should the 4-7 Dawgs? The west siders are in the midst of their worst season in a dozen years.
UW hasn’t found much of a groove offensively this season and its run defense has been susceptible to the ground-and-pound approach.
Oh, and did I mention that WSU can still win the Pacific-12 Conference’s North Division title?
With a victory Friday over UW and a little help from Oregon State, which visits Oregon on Saturday, the Cougars will be playing next week for a spot in the Rose Bowl.
But first, a talented and inspired WSU outfit stops this Cup drought handily.
The pick: Washington State 33, Washington 23