The longest short week of the football season is finally over — the 111th Apple Cup, between the Washington State Cougars (10-1 overall, 7-1 Pac-12), ranked No. 8 in the College Football Playoff, and Washington Huskies (No. 16, 8-3, 6-2) has arrived.
Kickoff is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. PT from Martin Stadium in Pullman. The game will be broadcast on Fox, and you can also stream the game on Fox Sports Go with the proper subscription. If you’re inclined to listen to the radio broadcast, you can find a list of affiliates here, or you can also listen via the WSU IMG Sports Network on TuneIn.
There’s a ton on the line in this game, just not in the way everyone anticipated heading into the season. Both teams will advance to the Pac-12 Championship Game next week with a win, meaning both still have a chance to play in the Rose Bowl, while the Cougars would also keep alive hope of an appearance in the CFP.
Although it appears likely that they would need some help in the form of chaos above them, a win today would represent WSU’s first over a ranked team since beating the Stanford Cardinal in late October and likely provide a major boost.
The game likely comes down to whether the Cougars can finally penetrate a Chris Petersen defense, an endeavor that has ended in disaster for them the past four seasons. It’s led people to conclude the Petersen and his coordinators have cracked some sort of code with the Air Raid, but WSU’s quarterback play has been subpar for years in this game.
Now, the Cougs feature Gardner Minshew II, who is looking to continue his stunning march toward the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York; he still leads the country in passing yards (4,325) and passing touchdowns (36). He even had a song written about him. The Huskies haven’t seen a player like this at the helm of Mike Leach’s offense.
Equally important, though, will be the WSU defense’s ability to limit UW’s ground game. Myles Gaskin has destroyed the Cougs in this matchup, allowing quarterback Jake Browning to find lots of space to throw. Contain the rushing attack and Browning’s windows get a lot smaller.
The weather could be a factor this evening. The current forecast calls for upper 30s at kickoff with a 98 percent chance of precipitation, with it shifting to a rain/snow mix by about halftime. Perhaps more importantly — at least from the WSU/Air Raid perspective — the wind is expected to stay under 10 mph for the duration of the game. That’s really good news for a team expected to put the ball in the air 50 times.
Additionally, while the cold and rain do make it more difficult to catch the ball, it’s not as big of a factor as it would seem at first glance; the Cougars haven’t had much trouble moving the ball in those circumstances, putting up 334 yards passing against the California Golden Bears a month ago.
If you missed any of our coverage this week, you can find all of it here. This will also be your game thread.
How are you feeling about the Apple Cup?
This poll is closed
Big WSU victory! (14+ points)
Moderate WSU victory (7-13 points)
Close WSU victory (1-6 points)
Close WSU loss (1-6 points)
Moderate WSU loss (7-13 points)
Big WSU loss (14+ points)