Another edition of the Apple Cup rivalry with a different twist this season. In what has basically amounted to just a rivalry game, this year’s version has some immense implications on the line. For Washington State, not so much, as they can only boost their chances of reaching a bigger bowl game. With 3 losses on the year, they could potentially get into a pretty solid bowl game. It looks a whole lot better than 4 losses on the resume. But for the Washington Huskies, they are going after a spot in the college football playoff. With a loss against USC, they are currently on the outside looking in, with Clemson ahead of them in the 4th spot. A lot of crazy stuff has happened at the top of the rankings this season and Washington is still a viable candidate to make the college football playoff.
It could have been a lot better for Washington State who suffered two losses early in the season. They opened up the season with a loss against Eastern Washington, a FCS opponent that came prepared to play. The Cougars also loss a close one to Boise State on the road as 10-point underdogs. Turn those into wins, and Washington State would have been undefeated heading into last week against Colorado. The Cougars offered no resistance to the upstart Colorado Buffaloes, en route to a 38-24 loss for Washington State. The loss snapped an eight-game winning streak for Washington State, which killed their outside chance of playing in the college football playoff. Nevertheless, a New Year’s Six Bowl was on the line, and if they win this and get some help elsewhere could be playing in one regardless.
Never have the Cougars and Huskies been so stacked on both sides of the ball. It took some time for Mike Leach to get Washington State playing as a contender, but it can only go up here for him and the Cougars. The defense has improved significantly over the last few years, and the offense continues to execute at a high level. However, they will be without one of Luke Falk’s favorite targets, River Cracraft. Think of how important Wes Welker was to the Patriots and Broncos’ offense in his prime. Cracraft is that same kind of small, shifty reliable slot receiver who is a favorite target of Falk. He hauled in 53 balls and 701 before an injury against California two weeks ago.
Washington Huskies vs. Washington State Cougars NCAAF Betting Odds:
vs. Washington State +6(-110)
Odds provided by Bovada.lv
Washington vs. Washington State Pick:
Luke Falk and Washington State had a heck of a time trying to weave their way through Colorado last week. Falk threw for 325 yards and 3 touchdowns with 1 interception, but only managed to score 24 points. For Washington State, 24 points is like 13 points for some teams. The Cougars are expected to put up northward of 35 points when they step on the field. Falk will have an NFL caliber defense to contend with this week. Note that cornerback Sidney Jones is going to be one of the first defenders taken off the board in his draft class. Safety Budda Baker is going to be heading to the NFL as well.
There is NFL talent on the offensive side of the ball for Washington, too. Receiver John Ross will be taken within the first few rounds, a guy who could provide instant results to a team who needs a receiver in their offense. Teams have been getting smart with Ross, doubling and sometimes triple teaming him, but it leaves open Dante Pettis on the other side to spring open. These are the guys who make quarterback Jake Browning. Browning has missed a lot of throws, but he has still hit for 37 touchdowns and 7 interceptions on 64.3% passing.
Washington State are ranked 16th in the FBS, allowing an average of 328 yards per game. The Huskies have the upper hand here, as Washington State are 66th in the country on defense. The Cougars have improved defensively, but still have to do as you can see. They are abysmal against the pass, allowing an average of 278.3 passing yards per game which is 116th. To a casual observer, the loss of River Cracraft looks insignificant. However, against Washington, the Cougars need all of their weapons at their disposal. Washington punches their rivals in the mouth this afternoon, bolstering their resume to reach the college football playoff.
PICK: WASHINGTON -6 (-110)