Three keys for Washington State to win
Stop UW from running
One of the big reasons the Huskies have won the past seven Apple Cups is that they have overpowered the Cougars at the line of scrimmage and have had great success running the ball. Washington has averaged 211 yards rushing per game in those victories. The Huskies have tried hard to run the ball this season, but without a lot of success, averaging just 106.5 yards per game and 3.3 yards per rushing attempt. If WSU can keep the Huskies to numbers similar to that, the Cougars should be in great shape.
Take care of the football
Washington State has had 25 turnovers in the past seven Apple Cups (21 in the past five), while the Huskies have had just nine. That helps explain why Washington has not only been winning recent Apple Cups, but dominating them, with the Huskies winning by at least 10 points in each of the past seven victories. The Cougars come into this game with much more momentum than the Huskies, but the quickest way to turn that around is having turnovers. WSU needs to win — or at least be even — in the turnover battle.
Get off to a good start
Washington has lost three straight games and has less to play for than the Cougars. If Washington State gets off to an early lead, it’s fair to wonder how much fight the Huskies would show in a season that has gone so much worse than anyone could have envisioned. But if UW can take an early lead, not only would that spur the Huskies, but the Cougars might start thinking, “Here we go again.”
Two difference makers
Quarterback Jayden de Laura
The sophomore was hindered by early injuries but has emerged as the Cougars’ most important offensive player. He has made great strides during the season and has become one of the best quarterbacks in the Pac-12, leading the conference in passing yards (250.6 per game) and touchdown passes (23). He is an accurate deep passer and nimble enough to make something happen when a play breaks down. He still makes occasional bad decisions, but those instances are happening a lot less often.
Linebacker Jahad Woods
The sixth-year senior is the unquestioned leader of the defense and he dearly wants to end Washington’s Apple Cup streak. Woods is fourth in WSU history with 415 career tackles and is the reigning Pac-12 defensive player of the week. He will play a huge role in trying to stop the Huskies from establishing a running game.
One Key stat
21 to 7
That is the number or turnovers for Washington State and the number of turnovers for Washington in the past five Apple Cups. It’s pretty difficult to win games — much less remain competitive — when averaging more than four turnovers. WSU needs to stop giving the ball away to end its Apple Cup drought.
Cougars 34, Huskies 28
I vowed in 2018 after the Gardner Minshew-led Cougars lost the Apple Cup in Pullman that I would not predict WSU to win again in the rivalry game until after the Cougars did it. But that was two coaches ago for both teams, and I am breaking my promise. The Cougars have more to play for and have been the better team this season.