Washington is a 6-point favorite over Washington State in an Apple Cup that will decide the Pac-12 North champion.
No. 6 Washington is seeking a fourth straight win over cross-state rival No. 23 Washington State in Friday’s Apple Cup.
Here’s what the Huskies have to do to win:
UW’s Keys to the Game
Limit turnovers, mistakes and penalties
The first rule in winning a big game – especially on the road in a hostile environment – is not beating yourself. In last year’s 45-10 win over Washington State, the Huskies forced seven turnovers (five fumbles and two interceptions) and the Cougars never had a chance. In that game UW committed 10 turnovers for 80 yards, which proved to be inconsequential because of WSU’s sloppy ball handling. The Huskies don’t need to play a perfect error-free game, but they can’t make too many mistakes and expect to win.
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Remain balanced offensively
Colorado pummeled Washington State with a punishing rushing attack that accrued 258 yards en route to last week’s 38-24 victory, which snapped the Cougars’ eight-game winning streak. Buffaloes running back Phillip Lindsey racked up 144 rushing yards and quarterback Sefo Liufau had 108. Colorado’s ability to run put distress on WSU’s defense, which also surrendered 345 passing yards to Liufau. In their only loss – a 26-13 defeat two weeks ago to USC – the Huskies had just 17 rushing yards and RB Myles Gaskin had just four carries in the second half. Much like Colorado, Washington has adopted a balanced offensive attack that averages 274 passing yards and 209 on the ground. UW runs the ball on 57 percent of its plays.
Pressure WSU QB Luke Falk
Washington State has a formidable rushing attack, but Luke Falk (3,935 passing yards) is the straw that stirs the drink in the Cougars’ Air Raid attack. UW is without two of its top defenders to season-ending injuries — linebackers Joe Mathis and Azeem Victor — but still managed to get six sacks last week against Arizona State and revive a pass rush that had been dormant the previous four games. However, UCLA is the only Pac-12 team that’s held Falk under 300 yards so shutting him down seems unlikely. WSU has also allowed just two sacks in the past three games, which is quite amazing considering Falk has averaged 46 passing attempts during that span. If the Huskies can’t get to Falk, they’ll need to be sure tacklers in the secondary, limit big plays and keep the yards after a catch to a minimum.
UW’s Key Players
QB Jake Browning – Has been brilliant most of the season and had been on pace to break Russell Wilson’s passing efficiency record set in 2011 at Wisconsin. However, Browning has been off recently while throwing two interceptions in each of the past two games. He still leads the Pac-12 with 37 touchdown passes — one more than Falk — and is fourth nationally in passing efficiency with a rating of 180.7.
RB Myles Gaskin – Second in the Pac-12 and 21st nationally with 1,130 rushing yards. Gaskin is averaging 6.2 yards per carry and he has nine rushing touchdowns.
WR John Ross III – Has 991 receiving yards. Ross is third in the nation with 15 receiving touchdowns, the second highest total in UW history.
FS Budda Baker – Will prove instrumental in UW’s defense against WSU’s passing game. Baker has been tremendous in pass coverage, but recently he’s been effective in the pass rush while blitzing off the edge. He has two sacks and seven tackles for losses. His 53 tackles is third on the team.
CB Sidney Jones – Considered a first-round pick in the 2017 NFL draft. He rarely gets challenged and has three interceptions this season.
LB Kieshawn Bierria – Leads the nation with five fumble recovers, which ties a UW record. Bierria is second among the Huskies with 56 tackles.