Apple Cup 2013 (12:30 p.m. PT, FOX) is finally here, and for the first time since 2002, both teams have something to play for beyond the trophy.
The Cougars enter the game on a two-game winning streak, one that has taken them to 6-5 and bowl eligibility for the first time since 2006. Regardless of the outcome, Washington State will likely be bowling. The Cougs haven't done that since a Holiday Bowl victory over Texas in 2003.
Much of the Cougars' improved play down the stretch can be attributed to increased proficiency in the passing game. Connor Halliday is playing the best ball of his career, including a 488-yard, no-interception performance in last week's win over Utah.
But Washington's defense will provide a stiff test for the Cougs. WSU's offense has excelled in passing downs all year, where it has has been almost 31 percent better than average according to Football Outsiders' S&P+ metric. The Husky defense has stepped in long yardage situations as well, performing 33 percent better than average on passing downs.
How well WSU can move the ball against UW's defense will show just how much the Cougs have improved on offense this season, and is key to stealing a fourth road win.
On the other side, the Cougar run defense will be tested by Bishop Sankey and the rest of Washington's running backs. But don't forget that this is a balanced Husky attack.
Keith Price is going to play, and if his shoulder isn't bothering him too much, that opens up the deep pass for Washington. The WSU defense has struggled mightily in deep coverage this season, and has been gashed for big plays in nearly every game.
Washington is certainly the favorite in this Apple Cup. The Cougs will have to pull off an upset for the second-straight year to keep the trophy in Pullman.
Join us in the game thread as the action unfolds. Go Cougs!