When Washington has the ball
Jake Locker has been banged up in various ways since the third game of the season against Nebraska. A cracked rib suffered in a win over Oregon State grew more severe with contact in successive losses to Arizona and Stanford has limited his effectiveness as a runner and a passer. Steve Sarkisian has done a good job so far protecting his quarterback and putting his team in a position to win during the final third of the season.
Chris Polk and Jessie Callier have been strong and steady all season. Polk only needs 46 more yards to go over 1000 yards rushing for the second consecutive season. The weather isn't going to be great and you win in December by playing a physical brand of football. The Huskies need to show they can run all day on the Cougars early and often.
Keep an eye on WSU DE Travis Long. He isn' t the best DE in the conference but he is young up and comer capable of having an impact. The Washington offensive line needs to keep him away from Jake Locker. The Cougar defense isn't statistically great but they play with great passion and have the ability to knock the snot out of you on one play while giving tons of yards on the next. They sacked OSU's Ryan Katz five times and held Jacquizz Rodgers under 100 yards in their last outing.
Washington will win this game if they can get the running game going and augment it with Jake's passing. Chris Polk is a physical running back who is hard to bring down. I think the young Cougar defenders are going to have a hard time tackling him which means a lot of short yardage situations for UW on second and third down. If the Cougs find a way to take away the Husky running game they could end up with a heartbreaking upset win.
When Washington State has the ball
Jeff Tuel is a good QB who throws the ball pretty well. He has had a baptism by fire the last two seasons and has come out of it looking pretty good as he nears the end of season two. The Cougs like to spread the field going for four wide and they have developed some good targets to throw to. The Husky CB's who have looked pretty good the last two weeks against one dimensional running teams are going to be challenged by the WSU air attack.
The Cougars don't have much of a run game but they picked up 221 yards on the ground in a dominating win over Oregon State. Jeff Tuel led WSU with 79 yards on 18 carries so he isn't a sitting duck in the backfield. Tuel picked up most of his yardage on scrambles against the Beavers so UW needs to contain him when they come after him, and oh yes, they are going to come after him. WSU has been doing more zone read stuff as the season has progresses and I wouldn't be surprised to see Tuel's number called against the Huskies.
Washington's defense has improved by keeping it simple and limiting substitutions which is easier to do against the one dimensional running teams. The Cougars probably have the best offense we have seen in three weeks. The Cougars like any 2-9 team are prone to making series of errors that can take them out of a football game in a span of only a few minutes. Washington needs to take advantage of that on Saturday.
Tuel is the best QB the Huskies have faced since Andrew Luck. They better bring the pressure or he has the ability to shred the UW secondary.
Quarterback : Even
Running Backs : Washington
Receivers : Even
Offensive Line : Washington
Defensive Line : Washington
Linebackers : Washington
Secondary : Washington
Special Teams : Even
The biggest intangible in this game is always the weather. There is a pretty good chance of snow in Pullman this weekend with temperatures in the 30's.
Seasoned observers who have watched the Huskies practice this week were impressed by the focus and intensity.
The Cougars haven't played a game in three weeks so they should be pretty fresh headed into this game. Does the time off help them, hurt them, or does it even matter?
The Cougars and Huskies have a history in this game of knocking the other either out of bowls entirely, or moving them down a notch. Most recently, Washington beat the Cougars in Pullman in 2006 to knock Washington State out of a probable bowl game.
QB Jake Locker is still bothered by a cracked rib but is scheduled to start. LT Senio Kelemete has a high ankle sprain and is listed as questionable. P Kiel Rasp is expected to return after suffering back spasm's after a cheap shot in last weeks game. S Sean Park is still questionable with stingers.
WSU OL Wade Jacobson (back) and OL John Fullington (ankle) are both back and practicing. Daniel Simmons didn't practice and probably won't play, but freshman cornerback Damante Horton, who has been out since the Arizona game with a knee injury, was back and participating in drills but is listed as being questionable. Deone Bucannon is expected to play Saturday.
The Bulletin Board
Jeff Tuel - "I guess I really feel like I should hate them to my bone, to my core, just because everybody does. I guess I don’t like them because it’s the in-state rivalry. … It’s kind of made for you guys to hate each other."
Tyree Toomer -"Hell yeah, we hate UW. We hate them probably 10 or 12 times as much as the students do. We don't like them. And that Cup is coming into Pullman and it's staying here. We definitely haven't forgot about (2009). We definitely had a serious injury problem -- a lot of guys we're out including myself. So we had a lot of our 2's and 3's ended up starting for us at the end of the year. But now we're pretty much healthy, we have our guys out there so I think we'll be good."
Jake Locker - "I don't think you could ever call the Locker family divided because I don't think that's ever the case. It'll be a friendly rivalry I guess among the family. I'm sure that they'll have their Cougar stuff on. My parents and everybody will have their Husky stuff on. I'm sure they'll talk some smack this week and get each other all riled up but at the end of the day we are family. We'll probably all be hanging out afterwards together no matter how the outcome is."
Nate Williams - "The Apple Cup is always a real intense game, a real tough game," said senior safety Nate Williams. We hate them and they hate us just as much, so I'm excited for it."
Quinton Richardson - "You know when I signed my letter-of-intent to come here it stated below that you are not allowed to like Cougs, so, it comes with the territory.''
Steve Sarkisian Quotes
"They've got a lot of confidence, they are playing hard and playing passionate. They are a dangerous team.''
"In one aspect of it, they are executing better. You go back and look at their earlier games and then as they carry on throughout the year, their execution in all three phases has improved. I think another thing, which is a real tribute to coach Wulff and his staff, is they battle. They competed better as the year has gone on, and they continued to fight. They did some good things against some very good teams to find a way to be in ball games late in games, and ultimately it showed up at Oregon State a few weeks back, where they were able to go out and dominate Oregon State, in a sense, on both sides of the ball, and especially at the line of scrimmage. To me that tells me that they are improving."
"I think in all rivalry games you kind of go in knowing to expect the unexpected, in a sense. And that’s what makes rivalry games so unique and so fun. People pull out all the stops in these games."
Paul Wulff Quotes
"The focus is on the Apple Cup, in all reality, and playing our rivals and how much this game means to the state. I don't want our seniors or the rest of our players to miss this experience of playing in the Apple Cup because this is going to be a memory of a lifetime for them.''
"I just feel like we've made a tremendous amount of progress and I think that speaks volumes on the facts of what have gone on, and that's all I can say."
"I've never had that experience of having three weeks between the last and next game for our players and the opponent not being in the same situation. The concern always coming off a bye is the ability to be sharp and crisp and execute at the pace you want to execute, and that's a true concern and that is our challenge. Will our bodies feel fresher than they normally would? Absolutely. But that doesn't mean we are going to come out and execute at the clip we all want, so that's our challenge.''
Washington holds a commanding 65-31-6 edge in the 102-game series.
UW is 28-14-1 in away games during the series.
Washington won last years game 30-0 in Seattle.
If Washington wins they will be the Pac 10 invitee to either the Alamo, Holiday, or Sun Bowl.
UW RB Chris Polk needs 46 rushing yards vs. WSU to reach the 1,000-yard mark for a second straight year.
Johnny Nansen is the only member of the UW coaching staff to have played at Washington State.
The Washington-Washington State game will air nationally on Versus television at 4:00 PM PST.