Last year, the state of Washington hosted perhaps the most useless rivalry game in major football conference history when 0-10 Washington traveled to Pullman to take on 1-9 Washington State. Every Husky fan can vividly remember the feeling of desperation that lied in our hopes of avoiding a win-less season against the also hapless Cougs. Anyway you sliced it, the game did not matter to anyone not affiliated with the programs involved.
Flash forward to November the 28th of this year. The much improved 3-7 Huskies host a much the same 1-9 Cougar squad. So, beyond the rivalry, what makes this game matter?
In a word; recruiting.
The Huskies will host 5 prospects who are not only ranked in the top 50 of their respective positions, but are all positions of need going forward. (all ratings are courtesy of dawgman.com)
Hayes Pullard: #3 MLB - Hayes would fill a void left by Donald Butler, who will graduate this year. He is a big athletic "prototype" MLB who has great instincts and finds himself involved in nearly every play.
Kevin Smith: #21 S -Kevin has been quite overlooked in terms of offers from major schools (Colorado, Arizona and UW are his only reported offers). However he has all the tools to be a quality player. Smith is a versitle athlete that can play either side of the ball. He clocks in at 6'1" 200lbs and runs a reported 4.45 40 yard dash. He has the type of speed and physical body makeup that the Huskies can really use in a depleted seconardy.
Micah Hatchie: #25 OT - Micah is a tall long armed tackle prospect who is a project. He has the body and the fundamentals but will need a redshirt year. All signs point to a quality prospect who should only get better as he is allowed to blossom.
Lawrence Lagafuaina: #45 DT - Lawrence is a big run stuffing "bowling ball" type of prospect. He has a wide body but could stand to have a redshirt year to allow his fundamentals to catch up with his physical gifts. A Lagafuaina/Potoae DT tandem could be one of the better pairs for any school in the 09-10 class.
Troy Hill: #45 CB - Troy is a lockdown type of corner who's been high on UW for quite some time now. He's seen his stock drop recently due to some of the "sleepers" having breakout years, but make no mistake that Hill is an elite player. He could use some time in the weight room, but he is a smooth, quick and agile true corner who could come in and possibly contribue as a true Freshman.
With room for as many as 7-8 more prospects in the current class, and the remaining needs being the trench players and secondary athletes, this could be a make or break weekend for the 09-10 recruiting class. Sark has done an amazing job hauling kids in early and locking down the best the state has to offer, but if UW shows signs that the program is not headed in the direction it needs to be, we could see alot of this talent (and talent from future classes) start to stray away from the Dawgs.
Last year, after the announcement that Tyrone Willingham would not be returning, there were no recruits hosted and nothing beyond pride to play for. This year is different as the team finally shows signs of life, and a completely new coaching staff.
The Apple Cup will always have a special place for UW and WSU fans alike, but with no bowl game in the picture for either team, for all intents and purposes does not carry much weight. However, a look beneath the surface reveals alot more than most media outlets would lead on.