Andrew Berg (10-1 SU, 5-5-1 ATS)
While the Apple Cup will continue for at least five more years, this game is the last version of the rivalry as we know it. It’s the last time they will play on Thanksgiving Weekend, the last time it will be a conference match-up, and the last time one team has the chance to spoil the other’s hopes of a Conference or National Championship. This time, it’s UW’s potential spot in the CFP on the line. The Dawgs would almost certainly be knocked out of the mix with a loss this weekend, even if they rebounded to win the Conference Championship next week. But do the Cougs have what it takes to give the Huskies a competitive game?
The Huskies haven’t had a truly comfortable win since trouncing Ca 59-32, all the way back in September. Since then, the following eight wins have been by 10 points or fewer. Of course, six of those wins were over teams that are either ranked now or were ranked at the time. The only truly bad performances were the offense against Arizona State (down two iOL), and the defense against Stanford (where Ashton Daniels had an out of body experience). Don’t let close wins against really good teams fool you: the Dawgs are excellent.
Washington State broke a six-game losing streak last week against Colorado. The losses largely came because of turnover problems, which had a lot to do with an undersized OL failing to protect Cam Ward. The Coug QB has been sacked 34 times this year and fumble 12 times. If Bralen Trice and company can continue getting pressure up front- and possibly even making a few sacks- the Dawgs defense can keep WSU from going crazy through the air. On the other side of the ball, it’s a shame we may not get to see Dillon Johnson against a very poor run defense, but I trust that Will Nixon and Tybo Rogers will be enough to keep the defense honest and let Michael Penix cook. Unless we get another monsoon, it should be a comfortable game for the offense and one with fewer nails bitten and pulses elevated in the closing minutes.
Washington- 49, Washington State- 28
Mark Schafer (11-0 SU, 7-3-1 ATS)
The Gauntlet rolls on with the Apple Cup! With this one at home, in the sunny (yet cold) confines of Husky Stadium, the Huskies look to get their offense dialed in for their showdown with the Cougars. For the sake of my health I hope they do!
Look for Michael Penix Jr. to carve up the Coug defense and for Jalen McMillan to maybe have a couple catches, but for Odunze, Bernard and Polk to feature heavily in the passing game. Where I am less sure is the run game. WSU’s defense is weaker against the run but due to an injury to Dillon Johnson we won’t know his status likely until game time on Saturday, and even if he goes, it’s no guarantee he’ll be at full strength, so we might see a rotation of Will Nixon and Tybo Rogers in the backfield.
The defense needs to do what they did last week: create havoc and cause turnovers with their pressure. Look for the coverage to drop 4 defenders and rush 3, which this season has forced the electric Cam Ward into unfavorable situations. This in turn has caused fumbles, so look for UW to use their size up front to try and bully WSU’s line on both sides of the ball!
Overall, this senior day for the Huskies is an opportunity to avenge the loss in Seattle in 2021, and I think they’ll do just that. I’m not asking for them to put up a hundred on the Cougs like I did in the NCAA Football video game like 8 years ago but I’m asking for a comfortable win over their hated rival.
Washington- 62, Washington State- 17
Max Vrooman (10-1 SU, 6-4-1 ATS)
There were times during this season when I was legitimately scared of this game. Namely after the Cougars knocked off Oregon State to move to 4-0 and Cam Ward looked like potentially the best QB in the country in that game (seriously, go back and look at those highlights and he was insane). Things trended straight into the abyss after that before a bounce-back thrashing of Colorado last Friday night. The Cougs lost shootouts (42-39 to Cal) and they lost defensive struggles (10-7) but mostly they just lost.
Washington’s offense struggled in the second half against Oregon State but there are reasons to think that gets cleaned up. The weather is supposed to be nearly perfect which means no more monsoons. Wazzu’s defense has a pair of really good defensive ends but the duo of Fautanu and Rosengarten have largely neutralized any opposing pass rushers over the back half of the season. The biggest concern may be the status of RB Dillon Johnson who Coach DeBoer said he expected to play this week but is also kind of a liar when it comes to injuries. Where his absence would be most felt is in pass blocking.
Just make peace with it now. Cam Ward is at least twice going to scramble around like a whirling dervish making Husky pass rushers run into each other and either saunter downfield for a first down or launch it deep for a big gain. It’s going to happen. Whether Ward can hold onto the ball all game and keep pace with the Husky offense is a bigger question.
I don’t think Washington has ever looked past the Apple Cup. They won’t this year with an undefeated regular season at stake. But the coaching staff knows that next week’s Pac-12 title game against either Oregon or Arizona is objectively more important for the goal of winning a national title. I expect anyone who is questionable to sit or only be available in case of emergency to preserve health for that game which will come on a short week. Combine that with the Cougars getting an extra day of rest and this is closer than might otherwise be expected.
Washington- 38, Washington State- 27
THE FINAL TALLY
Straight Up: Washington- 3, Washington State- 0
Against the Spread (UW -16.5): Washington- 2, Washington State- 1
Over/Under (68.5): Over- 2, Under- 1
Average Score: Washington- 49.3, Washington State- 24.0