APPLE CUP IS HERE!!! Preview, Matchups, and Predictions

Game: Washington Huskies @ Washington State Cougars

Where: Pullman, WA

When: November 29th, 7:30 pm

Channel: FOX Sports 1

Line: UW by 4 points.

Game Storylines:

How will the inclement weather affect the outcome of this game? According to Accuweather.com, there is potential for snow showers tomorrow morning; however, it is expected to clear up by kickoff. With that being said, it is supposed to be around 22 degrees with a “real-feel” of 14 degrees. The cold and potential snow accumulation could greatly impact the outcome of this game. Most would give the edge to WSU in the event of poor weather conditions as they are accustomed to playing in it; however, the Washington Huskies have strong argument as well. The Dawgs have the ability to grind out wins leaning on their running game, whereas the Cougs will continue to rely on the passing game which can be significantly impacted by the weather. With this being a rivalry game every point matters and cold weather can negatively impact the kicking and punting game. It will be interesting to see how each team deals with the added challenge of a typical night on the Palouse.

Will UW’s aggressive defensive line be neutralized by WSU’s quick-hitting passing attack? It is no secret that the strength of this Washington Huskies team is their front seven and ability to get after the opposing team’s quarterbacks. It would be easy to sit here and assume that the front seven will once again impose their will and sack WSU QB, Luke Faulk multiple times. With that being said, the Huskies have struggled to apply pressure to Mike Leach led Cougar squads due to his offensive style. One of the key elements to Leach’s offense is getting the ball out of the QB’s hands quickly and the Cougs have proven to be very effective in the aspect. Quick passes don’t give the opposing defensive lineman time to get in Faulk’s face and can lead to a very frustrating night. Expect to see the Huskies front seven to make their plays, but don’t be surprised if they run into a frustrating stretch at some point during the game.

Will WSU QB, Luke Faulk, find success against the young Husky secondary? Looking back to the beginning of the season I was fearful for this game. The outcome of this game looked bleak early on as the Husky DB’s looked helpless as WSU’s QB, Connor Halliday and the WSU WR’s were taking the NCAA by storm at a record-breaking pace. However, much has changed since then. The Huskies secondary has dramatically improved as Budda Baker and Kevin King are proving why they were highly recruited players coming out of high school. Also, the cornerback positions have been bolstered by two new faces in Sidney Jones and John Ross. In the meantime, Halliday suffered a tragic ending to his illustrious WSU career. It is truly saddening to see such a competitor miss out on a potentially record-breaking season due to a fluke-injury. Many expected the Cougar passing attack to significantly drop off with the loss of the veteran leader; however, Luke Faulk has stepped in nicely and has shown flashes of brilliance. It will surely be fun watching Luke Faulk battle Budda Baker and the young Washington secondary, a matchup that will be seen over the next three seasons.

Matchups:

2014 Matchup - UW vs WSU

Quarterback. Washington QB, Cyler Miles hasn’t gotten he credit he deserves this season in my opinion. I totally understand the frustration with the lack of explosive plays, but that is a reflection of the entire offensive unit and not simply one player. For being a young QB Miles has consistently been a smart and efficient player who has been improving week to week. The edge would have easily gone to the cougars here had Connor Halliday not suffered his season ending leg injury, but Luke Faulk’s recent performances have been notable. At the end of the day, the overall experience and play-making ability of Cyler Miles gives the Huskies the edge at this position.

Running Backs. The Cougars have averaged a measly 2.0 yards per carry on 225 carries this season. When compared to the Huskies 4.3 yards per carry on 545 carries it is easy to see why the Huskies get the edge at the running back position. Also, the Dawgs are finally getting healthy and have displayed their ability to create big play on the ground behind running backs Dwayne Washington and Lavon Coleman. Edge, UW.

Wide Receivers. Just as the running back position wasn’t much of a debate, neither is the wide receiver position. The Cougs might have the most experienced and talented WR corps in the entire country. Led by future NFL superstar, Vince Mayle, the Cougs possess a lethal combination of possession receivers and home-run hitters. Mayle is having a season for the ages with 101 catches for 1,404 yards and 9 TD’s. It is a travesty that he is not being considered for the Biletnikoff Trophy awarded to the nation’s top receiver. Isaiah Meyers, River Cracraft, and Dom Williams round out a scary group of receivers. The Huskies have gotten more consistency out of Jaydon Mickens, but pretending that the Washington WR’s can hold a candle to the Cougs is a crime. Edge, WSU.

Tight End. There has been a trend in the PAC-12 that has been eliminating the TE position, and WSU is no exception to that trend. The Cougs don’t have a single TE listed on their roster, so the edge here goes to the Huskies by default. However, I don’t want to downplay the recent performances by Joshua Perkins and Darrell Daniels. Both UW TE’s have played significant roles in the Dawgs last two games. Look for Perkins and Daniels to have an impact tomorrow as well. Edge, Huskies.

Offensive Line. The Washington Husky offensive line has been clicking the past two weeks now that they are getting healthier. The Big Dawgs have paved the way for a 4.3 yards per carry average along with only giving up 25 sacks on the season. The Huskies earn the edge here after comparing their performance to the Cougs average of 2.0 yards per carry and 32 sacks. Edge, Washington.

Defensive Line. UW boasts two of the nation’s elite pass-rushers in Hau’oli Kikaha and Andrew Hudson. Both are ranked in the top 10 in sacks in the nation with Kikaha leading the nation with 18.5 sacks. If Kikaha can record two sacks between the Apple Cup and bowl game he will break the NCAA record for most sacks in a single season. Expect Kikaha to be even more motivated to get to Faulk in order to further cement his legacy as the most feared pass rusher in Washington Husky history. Up the middle the Cougs will have to deal with the best interior defensive lineman in the country, Danny Shelton. It truly has been an amazing season for Shelton and the Husky defensive line. The Cougs also boast a strong defensive line allowing only 3.9 yards per rush. The Cougs will make their presence felt along the defensive line; however, the combined talent of Kikaha, Shelton, and the two Hudson’s earn the edge for the Dawgs.

Linebackers. The Husky linebackers nearly scored another TD last week as Travis Feeney intercepted a Sean Mannion pass in the red-zone before returning it 59-yards. The Huskies boast one of the best linebacker units in the country led by Shaq Thompson, John Timu, and Feeney. Expect these three to have a significant impact on tomorrow’s game against the Cougs. Edge, UW.

Defensive Secondary. Both teams have struggled in the back end of their defense. The Huskies have been improving week to week as Budda Baker, Kevin King, Sidney Jones, and John Ross become more comfortable in the defensive backfield. The Cougar secondary is led by smack-talking CB, Daquawn Brown. Brown has shown flashes of the true cover corner he can be; however, at times he has been over-aggressive and gets burned on a double move. This position was difficult to evaluate and very even; however, I believe that the Husky secondary will come up with one more big play then the Cougs. Slight edge goes to the Huskies here.

Special Teams. The Huskies certainly have the more explosive return game with John Ross handling kicks and Dante Pettis returning punts. That being said, the weather may have a significantly negative impact on the Huskies kicking game. The Husky kickers struggled earlier in the season when the weather has been less than ideal, specifically Korey Durkee and his punting duties. The WSU kicking game has been somewhat inconsistent, but they will certainly be more comfortable taking a game winning kick in cold weather than their Husky counterparts. UW’s Cameron Van Winkle boasts a 86% field goal percentage compared to WSU’s Quentin Breshears 75% conversion rate. Edge, Huskies.

Prediction:

Washington 34 Washington State 24

This is a rivalry game, regardless of the records, rankings, and stats this will be a close game. The Apple Cup is very rarely a one-sided contest, and I don’t see that happening this year either. I expect the Washington Huskies to get into an offensive rhythm utilizing a balanced attack against a susceptible Cougar defense. I also predict that Luke Faulk will find a way to exploit the Washington secondary and hook up with Vince Mayle for at least one long TD. At the end of the day the difference will come down to the turnover battle. I expect the Huskies to take care of the ball offensively while Shaq Thompson forces a fumble and Budda Baker records his first career interception. Winning the turnover battle will prove to be the deciding factor in what promises to be yet another exciting Apple Cup. Go Dawgs!

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Apple Cup Week Q&A

Apple Cup Harry vs Butch

Harry and Butch will be squaring off yet again on Saturday for Apple Cup.

It’s that time of year again! Apple Cup is this Saturday, and our Washington Huskies will be traveling across the state to Pullman to take on the Washington State Cougars in what always seems to be a competitive matchup, no matter the teams’ records going in. Since it’s a rivalry week, I chose to do something special and have a friendly Q&A with my friend who goes to WSU, Neil Roberts (link to his blog page, check it out!). Here are the questions I asked him (in bold) followed by his responses.

1) What does quarterback Luke Falk bring to the table that Connor Halliday didn’t?

Falk has already shown that he is more mobile than Halliday ever was. There were a couple of plays against Oregon State where the offensive line was unable to deal with the pressure, and Falk escaped from the pocket to extend the play; in fact, on Washington State’s final touchdown drive, he converted on a third down by moving to his right, realizing that the coverage was to tight, and scrambled for the first down. Washington has two and a half games of tape to look at examine and analyze when it comes to Falk’s mobility; but it provides an added wrinkle for the Cougar offense.

This is Falk’s second year with the team – he is a redshirt freshmen. As a result, he was able to develop in the system at his own pace, and behind a significantly more talented offensive line. He hasn’t had to deal with the gawd awful offensive lines that Halliday did; as a result Falk hasn’t learned to be scared of the pocket immediately after the snap, so he stays in the pocket longer.

2) What can we expect from WSU’s defense in a rivalry game like the Apple Cup?

The rivalry game, and senior night, are probably going to give the players extra motivation on the practice field and in film study. But the biggest defensive factor in the Apple Cup is going to be the health of the secondary.

The Cougar defense has struggled with health in its young secondary, and that’s been a big reason Washington State has been forced to play the experienced (but not nearly as athletically gifted, or sound on the basics). As a result, Coug fans have seen junior Taylor Taliulu and redshirt senior Mitchell Peterson (granted, Peterson had a fairly solid game against Arizona State) more than they would have liked. WSU’s secondary health has left the defense in a state of flux, and impacted its ability to effectively execute its scheme on the field.

When the secondary has been healthy, it’s done a pretty good job of preventing receivers from getting wide open. The improved downfield coverage has forced opposing quarterbacks to hold onto the ball longer, which gives the front seven time to generate pressure and hit the quarterback. It was a healthy secondary that forced Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota to hold onto the ball, and give the Washington State front seven time to pick apart the Ducks’ makeshift offensive line.

3) How will the Cougars combat UW’s pass rush ability?

Washington State just needs to run its offense, and Falk needs to make the correct reads, for the Cougars to combat the Washington pass rush. The Air Raid is designed around getting the ball out of the quarterback’s hand quickly. Sometimes that means a halfback/bubble screen, and sometimes that means running four verticals when it is clear that the safeties will be blitzing around the edges of the pocket. But for the most part, WSU is going to have to execute its offense.

As for what the offensive line will actually do, it really comes down to what the Washington defensive front shows. The center serves as the offensive line’s decision maker, and helps to make protection adjustments prior to the snap – the quarterback will also make protection adjustments. But the interesting thing to watch for, will be how the Husky’s new defensive coordinator adapts to the wide offensive line splits (space in between the offensive linemen) that Washington State uses. That’s what will determine how effective the Washington pass rush is.

It should be another fun matchup between these state rivals. Both teams will be ready to play and it should be a competitive game. Follow us on Twitter (@EmeraldFandom) for live updates during the game!

Here are details for the game:

Date: Saturday November 29th

Time7:30pm

Place: Pullman, WA

Broadcast: Fox Sports 1

Get Pumped Up for UW vs. OSU!

Game: Washington Huskies vs. Oregon State Beavers

Where: Seattle, WA

When: November 22nd, 7:30pm

Channel: PAC-12 Networks

Line: Huskies by 6.5 points.

Prediction:

Huskies 38 Beavers 17

Tomorrow night’s game is the last home game of the season and senior night. This will be the last chance to watch some of your favorite Huskies playing in Husky Stadium, so go grab tickets and enjoy what should be a great Saturday night on Montlake! The Huskies seem poised to have one of their best games of the season. As tough as the loss was last week, the Dawgs looked much improved and I expect them to look even better this week. I think the offense will continue to improve with Cyler Miles, Dwayne Washington, and the offensive line finding their strides to end the season. The defense has been consistent all year long and I expect nothing less than another stellar performance tomorrow night. I also predict a big special teams play from either John Ross III or Dante Pettis in what I believe could end up being a blow out win for the Huskies.

Thoughts and Predictions: UW @ Arizona – John Ross on defense!? Are the Huskies a divided team?

John Ross III dodging traffic on his way to a long TD reception against Cal earlier this season. Ross III has been moved to the defensive side of the ball for this weekend's matchup with Arizona.

John Ross III dodging traffic on his way to a long TD reception against Cal earlier this season. Ross III has been moved to the defensive side of the ball for this weekend’s matchup with Arizona.

Game: Washington Huskies @ #14 Arizona Wildcats

Where: Tuscon, AZ

When: November 15th, 12:30pm

Channel: FOX

Line: Arizona by 9.5 points

Game Storylines:

Will the John Ross III cornerback experiment help out a young and struggling defensive secondary? If so, will the cost of not having him on the offensive side of the ball outweigh his benefit to the defense? I understand the coaching staff is trying to alleviate some of the stress on an inexperienced and struggling defensive backfield; however, I don’t fully understand moving our most explosive offensive weapon to the defensive side of the ball. We have been losing games due to a lack of offensive consistency and production. Although our defense has looked bad defending the pass at times, collectively our defense has played well enough to win nearly every game (Stanford and ASU). I am all for experimenting and finding roles that benefit the players and the team, but I just don’t understand removing our best offensive threat from the offense to help out a steady defense. But there is also a reason that Coach Pete has the highest winning percentage in college football history, and I am sitting at a laptop typing.

What is wrong with the Husky offense? If I knew the answer to this I would be getting paid millions of dollars standing on the sideline with a headset on; however, seeing that that is not the case I will offer my best guess. I believe the offensive struggles are stemming from a combination of two things: Poor play calling and inconsistent lineups. First, our play calling is far too predictable. When Shaq enters the game at running back, he will be running a sweep right or left. If that doesn’t work we run a jet sweep to either Ross or Mickens. If that doesn’t work we throw a short or intermediate pass to Mickens. If THAT doesn’t work, enter Jeff Lindquist to fool the defense with a fake jet sweep QB Power. Now, I realize I have oversimplified the offense, but we haven’t shown much more complexity than that. Secondly, our players are having a difficult time executing because we don’t have a solidified starting lineup. Offensive lineman have been shuffling around, as many as four running backs will touch the ball, and don’t even get me started on the WR group. One of the most difficult things to develop as a young quarterback is timing, and not having a set starting WR group only makes developing timing more difficult. Trying to guess WR’s will receive the most snaps this weekend is similar to picking the lottery. The continuous emergence and disappearance of the Husky WR’s week to week has been detrimental to Cyler Miles’ attempt to develop timing and chemistry with a group of receivers. I would be happy if, by the end of the season, the play calling keeps the defense on their heels and the Huskies develop a true starting lineup.

Prediction:

Arizona 45  Washington 27

This is a bad matchup for the Washington Huskies. The Dawgs are going to win games with their defense, and more particularly their elite front seven. This week the front seven will be challenged and frustrated by a quick-hitting, fast-paced, pass-heavy offense. The young and inexperienced Husky secondary better buckle up, because this Saturday will be a long day. Furthermore, I only see the offensive struggles to worsen without the explosive threat of John Ross or Shaq on offense. With that being said, I do expect the Huskies to score some “garbage-time” points towards the end of the game. I believe that this Washington team is divided and frustrated. The Husky defense realizes that they are good enough to compete for PAC-12 Championships, but they are handicapped by an inept offense. I hope that Coach Pete has this potential locker-room divide under control so that it will not impact future games. I don’t expect the Washington Huskies to win this game; however, I expect the Huskies to rebound and end the season with a positive note going 3-0 including a bowl game. Keep your head up Dawg fans, a 9-5 season for a new team, new coach, and new QB ain’t too shabby.

UW vs. UCLA – Hype Video and Predictions!

Game: Washington Huskies vs. #18UCLA Bruins

Where: Seattle, WA

When: November 8th, 4:00pm

Channel: Fox Sports 1

Line: UCLA by 6 points

Game Storylines:

How will the Huskies handle the dismissal of CB, Marcus Peters? Will this prove to be a locker-room distraction? Will the young secondary rise to the occasion? Third year cornerback, Marcus Peters, was dismissed from the University of Washington football program for repeatedly violating the team’s code of conduct. Peters was thought to be a sure-fire first round pick and the #1 CB prospect entering the 2015 NFL Draft. Losing a talent like Peters will prove to be a challenge for this Husky football team. True-freshman, Naijel Hale, filled in admirably earlier in the season when Peters was suspended for off-the-field issues. Hale will once again be called upon to fill the void left by Peters. The Washington Husky secondary will surely be tested by Brett Hundley and the Bruin offense tomorrow evening. The Dawgs are starting three true-freshmen in the secondary: FS Budda Baker, CB Sidney Jones IV, and now Naijel Hale. If the Huskies are going to have a chance to pull the upset, these three will have to collectively play their best game of the season.

Matchups:

2014 Matchup - UW vs UCLA

Quarterback. Brett Hundley entered the season with a lot of hype as a potential Heisman contender; however, injuries and a struggling offensive line have hampered his potential. With that being said, Hundley still possesses the arm strength, mobility, and raw play-making ability to win games. Cyler Miles has been improving, but he still has a long way to go before he can be mentioned alongside the top QB’s in the conference. Edge, UCLA.

Running Backs. This is perhaps the most intriguing matchup all season long. Each team boasts arguably the most versatile player in the country in Myles Jack (UCLA) and Shaq Thompson (UW). Jack rushed for 4 touchdowns last year against he Huskies, but has seen his RB duties dwindled due to the emergence of 1,000-yard rusher, Paul Perkins. Oppositely, the Huskies have turned to Shaq to carry the load on offense as he is averaging 7.9 yards per carry. Both Jack and Shaq figure to impact this game on offense and defense; however, the edge here goes to UCLA as they have a proven work-horse running back in Paul Perkins. Edge, Bruins.

Wide Receivers. I still am thoroughly perplexed by the disappearance of Kasen Williams. At this point it is simply a pipe dream to expect him to break out of this slump and impact a football game. It truly is a shame as he was one of the most prolific pass-catchers in school history through his first 2.5 seasons. Jaydon Mickens leads the team in receptions but has not been able to be the game-breaking player some expected. John Ross III will likely be on the defensive side of the ball this week to help a depleted secondary. With the UW wide receiver corps struggling and underachieving the edge goes to the Bruins.

Tight End. Washington TE’s have been relatively quiet all season long. With that being said, they have gotten meaningful contributions from Joshua Perkins and Michael Hartvigson in the blocking game. The edge here simply goes to Washington as the Bruins do not have a single TE on their roster. Edge, Huskies.

Offensive Line. The Washington Huskies O-line has been playing pretty consistently all year long despite  injuries to Dexter Charles and Ben Riva. It looks like the Huskies will get their bruising LG, Charles, back this week. Having Charles back will certainly help the Dawgs establish the run in this game. On the other hand, the UCLA offensive line has been struggling. Although they have done a good enough job to pave the way for a 1,000 yard rusher, they have also given up 30 sacks. Facing the nation’s leading sack-artist in Hau’oli Kikaha will be challenge for the Bruins. At the end of the day the Huskies have allowed only 19 sacks and have been gaining momentum in the running game. Edge, Huskies.

Defensive Line. Hau’oli Kikaha as 15.5 sacks this season and has a chance to be one of only three players in NCAA history to record 20+ sacks in a single season. Kikaha is licking his chops this week as the Bruins offensive line has struggled to keep Hundley upright all season long. With that being said, Hundley is an elusive QB and the Huskies will need to wrap up and gang tackle. Up the middle, Danny Shelton is having an All-American season of his own. The Husky defensive line is truly among the nation’s elite. The UCLA Bruins have only 13 sacks and give up an average of 4.1 yards per carry to opposing running backs. Edge, Washington.

Linebackers. The Husky linebackers scored yet another defensive touchdown last weekend, this time coming from a Travis Feeney pick-six. John Timu, Travis Feeney, and Shaq Thompson have proven to be game changers all over the field. With that being said, Thompson’s role on defense has been limited as he has seen more action on the offensive side of the ball. Keishawn Bierria has stepped in and filled in for Thompson nicely when he has been asked to do so. The Bruins have a very talented linebacker unit led by Myles Jack, however they simply have not come up with the turnovers and touchdowns as their Husky counterparts. Edge, Huskies.

Defensive Secondary. With the dismissal of lockdown cornerback, Marcus Peters, the Huskies will turn to true-freshman Naijel Hale. Hundley and UCLA’s offense will certainly attack the Huskies young secondary early and often tomorrow night. If the young Dawgs can hold their own, the Washington Huskies will have a shot to win this game. The UCLA Bruins have been struggling defending the pass as well giving up 17 TDs through the air. The edge here goes to the Bruins experience and depth. Edge, UCLA.

Special Teams. The Huskies return game has simply been electrifying this season with John Ross III returning kicks and Dante Pettis handling punts. Pettis took a punt 80+ yards for a touchdown last week and will look to come up with another big play tomorrow. Korey Durkee has struggled punting the ball recently, but Cameron Van Winkle has been great in his place-kicking duties. UCLA has their own return specialist in Ishmael Adams who has scored a special teams touchdown of his own. The edge here is won by the kicking game. Washington’s Van Winkle has converted 85% of his field goals where as UCLA’s Ka’imi Fairbarin has converted only 73% of his attempts. Edge, Washington.

Prediction:

Washington 27 UCLA 24

The Washington Huskies will upset the #18 UCLA Bruins tomorrow night in Husky Stadium. Cyler Miles looked at his best last season against the Bruins and I think he will play one the better games in his young Husky career. On top of that, the Dawgs will establish the run with Dwayne Washington, Lavon Coleman, and Shaq Thompson. The Husky secondary will be tested early and struggle to find their bearings; however, Budda Baker will get his first interception as a Husky in the second half. I expect this to be a hard fought football game between two teams still searching for their identity. At the end of the day, the Husky defense comes up with one more play than the Bruin offense and secures the victory for Husky Nation. Go Dawgs!