A berth in the Pac-12 Championship Game is on the line for No. 15 Washington State when it visits No. 14 Washington in the annual Apple Cup on Saturday. The Cougars will win the North Division with a victory over the Huskies, while a loss to Washington will result in Stanford claiming the spot in the conference title game.
The Huskies have won seven of the past eight meetings between the clubs but find themselves in the role of spoilers after making the College Football Playoff last season and coach Chris Petersen doesn’t like the term “disappointing” placed on the campaign. “People don’t know how difficult 9-2 is. They don’t know. It is hard,” Petersen said at a press conference. “I don’t know if it’s the College Football Playoffs, but it’s just expectations. That’s one of the hard things in this whole thing is just managing expectations.” Washington State is averaging 33 points per game in coach Mike Leach’s progressive system that has made a star of quarterback Luke Falk. The senior gunslinger holds school and Pac-12 records for career passing yardage (14,117) passing touchdowns (118).
TV: 8 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Washington -10.
ABOUT WASHINGTON STATE (9-2, 6-2 Pac-12): Falk has passed for 3,224 yards and 29 touchdowns against 10 interceptions this season and his career accomplishments include 29 300-yard passing performances — including topping 400 on 11 occasions — and 23 games of three or more touchdowns passes. Three different Cougars have caught more than 50 passes — junior receiver Tavares Martin Jr. (65 receptions for 759 yards and nine touchdowns), sophomore running back James Williams (59 for 383 with three scores) and sophomore wideout Isaiah Johnson-Mack (57 for 530, five TDs). Washington State ranks 11th in total defense (303.8 yards per game) and is second nationally with 94 tackles for losses with junior defensive end Hercules Mata’afa (41 tackles, 9.5 sacks) racking up 21.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage.
ABOUT WASHINGTON (9-2, 6-2): Junior quarterback Jake Browning became the school’s leader in career passing touchdowns (77) during last Saturday’s victory over Utah and has passed for 2,451 yards and 18 touchdowns against five interceptions. Junior running back Myles Gaskin (1,090 rushing yards, 15 touchdowns) also moved to the top of the career rushing touchdowns list with 39, and stands 235 yards away from becoming the third Washington back to reach 4,000 career rushing yards. The Huskies got talented redshirt freshman cornerback Brandon Murphy (foot) back for the Utah game after he missed the previous seven contests and he will bolster a defense that ranks fourth in total defense (271.3 yards per game), fifth in scoring defense (14.5) and eighth in passing defense (168.4).
1. Washington has won the last four meetings in a series that began with a 5-5 tie in 1900.
2. Huskies senior Dante Pettis has four punt return touchdowns this season and holds the NCAA career mark of nine.
3. The Cougars are tied for third in the nation with 27 takeaways (14 interceptions, 13 fumbles).
PREDICTION: Washington State 33, Washington 31