The preseason prediction series hits its final week with the 2012 Apple Cup. Washington has won the last three Apple Cups, but will they be able to continue that streak this year? Let's take a closer look at the 2012 Huskies.
2011 record: 7-6
2011 S&P+ rating: 199.6 (WSU 175.3)
2011 away record: 1-4
Returning starters: 14
Athlon Sports preseason ranking: 25 (WSU 51)
Phil Steele power rating: 132.67 (WSU 123.32)
All-time record vs. WSU: 59-29-4
Last meeting: UW 38 vs. WSU 21 (2011)
Bill C Stat Profile: LINK
Bill C Preview: LINK
Let's once again play Optimist vs. Pessimist.
What optimists see: a team that has a potentially dynamic offense, a rebuilt and almost certainly improved defense, recruiting rewards ready to be reaped, and a team that should knock off Stanford at home (and potentially do the same to USC) to start, at worst, 3-3 or 4-2 (and hey, LSU is typically a slow-starting team, just saying), then roll toward nine or 10 wins.
What pessimists see: a team that, like Mike Stoops's 2007-10 teams at Arizona, hasn't actually gotten better or worse since its initial improvement, has been pummeled with injuries (especially on the all-important offensive line), might take a little while to gel defensively and is as likely to lose to San Diego State in its opener as it is to beat Stanford or USC.
While I struggle to see a team capable of beating both Stanford and USC, I do think Washington is pretty likely to take a nice step forward in 2012, from the 60s to the 30s or 40s. (Predicting any more than that would be scary.) A team that good should finish 7-5 here, max, though with so much youth the Huskies are probably still a year or so away from peaking with this group. Get to the 30s this year, and you can start thinking about the teens next year.
Mike Leach will get a $25,000 bonus for winning the Apple Cup, but unfortunately for Leach, he will get nothing if the Cougars win this poll. Sorry coach.