Washington To Continue Apple Cup Dominance Vs. Washington State

apple cup football

Rainman M.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018 1:52 PM UTC

Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018 1:52 PM UTC

Get the latest college football picks on the Apple Cup. Washington State hosts Washington on Friday at 8:30 p.m. ET on FOX. Bet confident with SBRpicks.com.

No. 18 Washington (8-3 SU, 2-9 ATS) at No. 8 Washington St. (10-1 SU, 10-1 ATS)Friday, 8:30 p.m. ET (FOX)Free NCAAF Picks: Huskies ATS & MLBest Lines Offered: 5Dimes

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In this year’s version of the Apple Cup, the Pac-12 North is at stake. The winner of this game will face Utah in the Pac-12 Championship. Washington has owned the rival Cougars, beating them five times in a row and four times with current head coach Chris Petersen by an almost 30-point average margin of victory. The narrative is that this year’s teams are different and will therefore produce different results. Their records seem to indicate that, but they are misleading. The Cougars have faced the least amount of bowl-eligible teams in the conference, playing only one of the four away from home. On the contrary, Washington faced seven bowl-eligible teams, four away from home.

It’s also not fair to punish the Huskies for having a worse record because they played much of the season with key injuries to players who are healthy again. On offense, tight end Hunter Bryant, who is one of quarterback Jake Browning’s favorite targets, has played the last two games and helped Browning achieve his best numbers since October 13. Likewise, preseason All-American left tackle Trey Adams returned against Oregon State. On defense, starting cornerbacks Jordan Miller and Myles Bryant saw action again last week. Miller had an interception in last year’s Apple Cup. Two other important returners from injury were defensive end Shane Bowman and linebacker D.J. Beavers. So many important pieces are now healthy and able to help Washington be like the Washington of recent years.

Running back Myles Gaskin has been a crucial part of Washington’s Apple Cup success. Last year, for instance, he ran for 192 yards and four touchdowns on 25 carries. He also has been crucial to Washington’s success as a whole. In two of the team's losses, he did little against Oregon and was absent against Cal. In the past two games -- against Stanford and Oregon State -- he ran for more than 130 yards and averaged more than five yards per carry. The Cougars’ run defense is still vulnerable particularly thanks to a weak defensive line that also took heavy hits in the offseason, including that of conference second-teamer Hercules Mata’afa. Washington State’s defense ranks 81st in rushing s&p+, an analytic that basically means that the Cougars’ run defense does a poor job of helping it win games. Gaskin will have a big game, which, in addition to the return of Bryant, will take pressure off of future NFL star Browning, who has thrown four touchdowns and zero interceptions in his past two games.

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Washington State executes a pass-heavy air raid offense that features a large number of wide receivers. Washington’s defense, though, is built to stop it. In the past four Apple Cups, Mike Leach’s Washington State failed to exceed 17 points. Last year’s Cougars, for instance, averaged 30.2 points per game, but mustered less than half that number against Washington. The Huskies like to field extra defensive backs and linebackers who are athletic enough to succeed in pass coverage. An example of the latter is Ben Burr-Kirven, who is second on the team in passes defensed. In terms of the former, the health of Bryant and Miller play a decisive role.

The Cougars’ offense is predicated on big plays, ranking 42nd in IsoPPP+. Its lone non-cover came against Cal, who limited the Cougars to a longest play of 28 yards, held them to 19 points, and almost pulled off a major upset. UW does an even better job than Cal. Its defense is constructed to keep everything in front of it. As a result, Washington ranks fifth nationally and first in the conference in plays of 20+ yards allowed. It is the only team in the conference that hasn’t allowed a play of 40+ yards. Washington will make it excruciatingly difficult for the Cougars to work their way down the field. Gardner Minshew will be another high-caliber quarterback casualty for a Washington defense that has thrived against the conference’s best, limiting Arizona State’s Manny Wilkins to season lows in terms of yards and passer rating, shutting down Stanford’s K.J. Costello until the game was out of reach, and limiting Oregon’s Justin Herbert to one of his worst performances in terms of yards and rating.

Getting a field goal looks excellent on the NCAAF odds board, but with your NCAAF picks feel free to take Washington on the money line as well. The Huskies will cover a fifth straight Apple Cup.

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