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.
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).