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The Apple Cup Primer

Washington and Washington State have been playing football against each other since 1900. That means this will be the 102nd meeting between the two schools in what has been called the Apple Cup since 1962. The Huskies hold a 64-31-6 record despite dropping the past two contests to the Cougars.

UW's longest winning streak has been eight games, achieved twice: (1959-66 and 1974-81). WSU has never won more than two consecutive Apple Cups, but the Cougars have won back-to-back games on eight separate occasions: (1929-30, 1953-54, 1957-58, 1967-68, 1972-73, 1982-83, 2004-05 and 2007-08). Although Washington currently leads the overall series, the Cougars have taken four of the past five meetings including a double-overtime win in the 2008 meeting.

According to most WSU fans their favorite Cougar games include: the 1997 win over the Huskies in Seattle which gave the Cougars a Pac-10 Co-championship and a Rose Bowl berth; a 1992 WSU win played in the snow often referred to as "The Snowbowl"; the 1982 WSU win (first Apple Cup in Pullman in over 25 years) that denied Washington a berth in the Rose Bowl; a 2008 double overtime win which led to Washington's winless season; and the 2004 Apple Cup that ended a string of UW victories in the series.

Among the Husky faithful, the more recent memorable victories include: a stunning 2002 triple overtime win over the 3rd-Ranked Cougars in Pullman; a 2003 upset of a top-10 ranked Washington State team; and the 1981 Apple Cup that denied the Cougars a bid in that year's Rose Bowl. Husky fans also remember the 1975 come-from-behind win (WSU was ahead 27-14 with three minutes remaining) when Al Burleson intercepted a pass and ran it back more than 90 yards for a touchdown.

This season won't have a lot of the past drama mentioned above going into this game. Washington enters with a 3-7 record and the Cougars are 1-10. No matter what the records are the series has usually proven to be exciting no matter who is favored by how many going into the game. Washington for example is a four touchdown favorite playing at home this year. On paper the Cougars really don't have a chance but if the game was played on paper the playing surface at Husky Stadium would be cardboard rather than field turf.

Junior QB Jake Locker is the undisputed leader of the Huskies. This is his fourth season at Washington and he is currently 1-2 against the Cougars. You could really say that he is 0-1 because he has only played in one of the games so far. Since this could be his last Apple Cup expect him to be fired up for this game. Jake will be the best player on the field this Saturday for either team and he is overdue for a great game.

RS Frosh running back Chris Polk is another serious weapon in the Washington arsenal. He comes into the game needing only 111 yards to go over the thousand yard mark for the season. If he can get that done over the next two games he will become the only Washington freshman ever to do that. The Cougars are going to have their hands full with Polk. He breaks tackles and carries players with him for extra yards on every play. If you don't get to him in the backfield he is pretty tough to bring down.

The Cougars haven't had a lot of luck at QB this season. They have been through three starters so far in Kevin Lopina, Marshall Lobbestael, and Jeff Tuel. Tuel is the QB of the future but he won't get the starting nod. Senior Kevin Lopina will be the starter because Tuel is coming off an injury and Wulff would prefer that he doesn't have to get banged up again on Saturday risking firther injury that could impair him for next season.

Dwight Tardy has become the feature back of the Cougar offense. I personally think he is one of the better running backs in the conference. The Cougars enter the Apple Cup with a healthy offensive line for the firsttime in weeks and that could be an important factor in this contest.

Defensively these two teams are among the worst statistically in the Pac 10 so you can expect some scoring on Saturday. Honestly I think Washington has the edge here with a solid LB  crew and the return of Cameron Elisara to the defensive line. I think WSU will have a huge problem defending Washington's receivers while keeping an eye on RB Chris Polk. That is even without mentioning the elusive Jake Locker.

Both of these teams enter the game trying to play for a little season ending respect with a sharp eye pointed toward the future. According to embattled second year WSU head coach Paul Wulff the future looks bright for the Cougars which is about all you can say when your team has won three games over the past two years. Wulff most likely has only one season left to prove the Cougars are improving.

Steve Sarkisian on the other hand has one three games in his first year at Washington which is a dramatic improvement for a team that was 0-12 the past season. Even if Washington wins the game nobody is going to roll the red carpet out for a four win season. What is important though is that the Huskies were competitive enough to have won another three games if a little luck had gone their way.

Wulff can't say that because the Cougars have just been pounded in every contest this season excluding an unlikely win over SMU. WSU is often  out of the game by the end of the first quarter. The problem of course at WSU is talent, depth, and experience. The Cougs like the Huskies are playing way too many young players. Only time, careful recruiting, and development will cure that for Cougars.

The key for Washington in this game is to come scoring often and early. Washington State is prone to far fall behind before the end of the first half and actually play a lot better in the second stanza. If Washington lets the underdog hang around into the third and fourth quarters they could be in for trouble.

Last years contest was a classic example of that. The Huskies who didn't play well all day looked like they had the game sewn up with seconds to go in the fourth quarter until WSU hit their first long pass of the game to score a game winning TD as time wound down. This is the exact same scenario that shot Washington in the foot against ASU earlier this season.

In conclusion Washington needs to put this one away early and as Kavario Middleton said earlier this week put up 50 points on WSU to let them know where they stand in the overall food chain of the Pac 10. This contest is all about respect and Washington needs to establish that against a program that has beat them four of the last five meetings.