Reasons to be concerned about WSU

So here we are, looking ahead to the Apple Cup with a bowl berth - potentially a bowl as good as the Holiday Bowl - on the line for the Huskies.  Before the season, we all figured this was a near-certain win.  Now though, there are reasons to be concerned by this game:

  • Cougs are improving:  It was easy to think after the first few games of the season which included blowout losses to Oklahoma State and USC and the last second win over FCS team Montana State that this was another lost season of horrible results for the Cougs and Wulff was doomed to be fired.  But rather than fold their tents and give up, they have indeed improved over the course of the season and even notched a road win at Oregon State.  Players are improving and the results are improving.  The Cougs have some skill talent in Tuel, Karstetter and Wilson, and some promising defensive players in Mizell and Buchanon.
  • Cougs have had 2 weeks off:  Wulff and staff will have had a lot of time to study film on the Huskies and devise specific plays and schemes for us and practice them, much more so than Sark & co.  As well, the Cougs have had that time to heal up injuries.
  • We're beat up:  Along those same lines, Kelemete is questionable at best right now, which would potentially remove one of our best linemen and force yet another re-shuffling of our line.  Locker almost certainly aggravated his rib injury with his running yesterday.
  • Cougs still have motivation:  Instead of mailing in this season and getting Wulff fired, the Cougs have continued to play hard and have seen their hard work rewarded with good performances culminating in their first Pac-10 win in over a year; they have some momentum going from that win - confidence that what they're building is working and that they can compete and win Pac-10 games again.  And while the Cougs are always up for the Huskies, they have that added incentive to play spoilers and knock us out of a bowl; they know just how much of a let-down that would be for us and would absolutely relish our agony if we lost.
  • It's in Pullman:  While the gameday will probably be clear, there will be snow on the ground and it will be below freezing.  The Huskies got a few days of practice in with similar conditions last week, but the Cougs have been practicing in it for weeks and will be more prepared for the conditions.

    Now, all that said, the Huskies are the more talented and accomplished team and should win the game.  WSU's defense is improved, but they're still among the very worst defenses in the country in all categories - rush yardage allowed, pass efficiency defense, total yards allowed, points allowed.  Even a beat up Locker and a questionable offensive line should be able to roll up points on the Cougs.  Polk and Callier should be able to replicate their success against the Bruins, taking pressure off of Jake and setting up play-action passes.  The Coug run game is awful (though they did well against OSU) putting most of the pressure on Tuel and their passing game.  If Q can continue his strong recent play and Tru recovers his mojo, the Husky defense could have a 3rd straight good showing.  Plus, the Huskies have a lot more motivation.

    Still, this is far from a gimme.  I'm sure the team knows it and will react accordingly (but hopefully not by playing too stiff), but I've seen too many Apple Cups where inferior Coug teams beat the Huskies and take away a Rose Bowl to be over-confident about this one (and to be fair, the Huskies have done the same to the Cougs).

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