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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