Washington State (4-7, 2-6 Pac-12) at Washington (6-5, 4-4) Time: 4:30 p.m., CenturyLink Field TV: Versus Radio: 950 AM, 770 AM The line...
Washington State (4-7, 2-6 Pac-12) at Washington (6-5, 4-4)
Time: 4:30 p.m., CenturyLink Field
TV: Versus Radio: 950 AM, 770 AM The line: Huskies by 8 ½
The setup: Nothing tangible on the line for either — Washington already has a non-BCS bowl game locked up and WSU can’t get to one. But each is looking to put a nice bow on a season that has been up and down. UW started 6-2 to provoke much excitement, but has since lost three in a row, all by 17 or more points. Washington State lost its last chance at getting bowl-eligible last week with an overtime defeat against Utah, but beating the Huskies always puts a different spin on a season. And speculation remains about the future of coach Paul Wulff, in his fourth year at WSU, and whether the result in the Apple Cup will matter.
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What to expect: Each team ranks among the top six in the Pac-12 in scoring and each among the bottom six in points allowed — so a shootout seems in order. Each also has proved to throw it pretty well, while only sporadically defending the pass. So lots of passes and passing yards also appear likely. Close games are usually the norm in this series, at least of late — only once since 2001 has the game been decided by more than eight points.
Notes: Washington leads 66-31-6 in a series that dates to 1900, a 5-5 tie in Seattle. UW has won the past two, including a 35-28 victory last year in Pullman. … The game is being played at CenturyLink Field because of the renovation of Husky Stadium, a $250 million project scheduled to be completed by the start of the 2013 season. Since 2002, WSU has played every year but one at CenturyLink, and this will be its second game there this season as the Cougars lost to Oregon State 44-21 in October. This will be the second time UW has played at CenturyLink, losing to Air Force 20-17 to open the 2005 season. UW, however, will play its entire home schedule at CenturyLink next season. … This will be the first Apple Cup not played in a home stadium of UW or WSU since 1980, when the Huskies beat the Cougars at Joe Albi Stadium in Spokane, where WSU held the game from 1956-80. … The game will air on national television on Versus with the broadcast team of Ted Robinson, Glenn Parker and Akbar Gbaja-Biamila. … The game has been called the Apple Cup since 1962. From 1934-61 the winner was awarded the Governor’s Trophy.
Key matchup: Chris Polk vs. WSU’s front seven. Polk, a burly 220-pound junior, proved the difference last year when he rushed for 284 yards, second-most in the history of the rivalry (behind Hugh McElhenny’s 296 in 1950). He’s been held to 205 yards in UW’s past three games as the offensive line has struggled to give him any room to run. But if he’s on, he looms as the one player for which WSU might not have an answer.
Injuries: Washington — RB Deontae Cooper (knee), CB Adam Long (knee), DE Hau’oli Jamora (knee), RB Johri Fogerson (knee), DB James Sample (shoulder), OG Colin Tanigawa (knee) out. S Will Shamburger (nerve) questionable.
WSU — QB Connor Halliday (liver), QB Jeff Tuel (clavicle), WR Isiah Barton (knee) out; OL David Gonzalez (foot), CB Daniel Simmons (ankle) questionable; DE Lenard Williams (knee), OT Dan Spitz (ankle) probable.
Upset brewing?: Like all rivalry games, little that might happen in this one would rank as a huge surprise. WSU is an 8 ½-point underdog, but this game usually is decided in the last few possessions no matter the spread. And WSU has the kind of passing attack that has given the Huskies fits all season, especially if its line can give QB Marshall Lobbestael any time.
Prediction: Washington 37, WSU 31.
QBThe two players who have started most of the season for their respective teams — UW’s Keith Price and WSU’s Marshall Lobbestael — will start. Price should be healthier than he has been, and his mobility gives him a slight edge.
RBChris Polk leads UW’s running attack and is only the second player in school history with three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. He’s rushed for more yards this season — 1,241 — than WSU’s entire team (1,179).
WRWSU’s Marquess Wilson leads the Pac-12 in receiving yards at 1,280, more than twice as many as the leading Husky (Devin Aguilar, 508). WSU, though, will be without third-leading WR Isiah Barton. UW’s WR corps has struggled with drops.
OLTwo struggling units also are each dealing with some injuries. UW will field a different starting lineup for the first time all season with LG Colin Tanigawa out with a knee injury. The two teams are tied in sacks allowed with 26 apiece in Pac-12 games.
DLBoth teams have struggled all year to rush the passer and, at times, to stop the run. UW senior DT Alameda Ta’amu, though, has played better of late and Washington’s potential strength up the middle gives the Huskies a slight edge.
LBUW has gotten solid play from MLB Cort Dennison but struggled on the outside. WSU true frosh SLB Chester Su’a has led an improved effort against the run in recent weeks.
DBEach team’s secondary has been beaten badly at times. But UW has allowed fewer touchdowns (18 to WSU’s 21) and has one more interception (9-8), so we’ll give the Huskies a slight edge.
STUW ranks higher in just about every special-teams category, and one that bears watching is kickoff returns — UW is third in Pac-12 in returns (23.9) while WSU is last in kickoff coverage.
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