It's the 108th Apple Cup between Washington and Washington State on Friday, with this year's game from Husky Stadium in Seattle. It's probably the most important Apple Cup since 2003. The Huskies are -5.5 on college football odds with a total of 54.
Will Falk Play For Cougars?
Mike Leach probably should be the Pac-12 Coach of the Year for the job he has done at Washington State (8-3, 6-2), which can finish in a tie for second in the Pac-12 North with a victory. Wazzu hasn't finished with a winning record since 2003, which is also the last time it won a bowl game. Leach's best previous season at the school was a 6-7 mark in 2013. WSU was just 3-9 last year.
The No. 20 Cougars are off a 27-3 home win over Colorado last week, the first time WSU held a Pac-12 opponent without a TD in nine years, but excellent sophomore quarterback Luke Falk was taken off the field on a backboard with 8:16 left in the third quarter. He was sacked on a play and had his head slam on the turf on a below-freezing night. Falk gave two thumbs up and waved his hands as he left the field. So will he play in this game? That's the big question. WSU hasn't used the word "concussion" yet and the school doesn't address injuries.
“It’s Coach (Mike) Leach’s policy not to talk about injuries, but there are policies from NCAA in regarding to concussions we follow those to a T,” Washington State athletic director Bill Moos said early this week. “We’re hopeful he can play (in the Apple Cup) but we don’t know yet."
Falk is completing 70.7 percent of his passes -- and no team passes more than Wazzu -- for 4,266 yards, 36 touchdowns (school record) and eight interceptions. His backup is freshman Peyton Bender. He got by far the most action of his career against Colorado, completing 13 of 22 for 133 yards, a TD and a pick.
WSU leads the country in passing offense (406.9). Receiver Gabe Marks leads the Pac-12 in catches (92), TDs (14), catches per game (8.4) and is second in receiving yards (1,067). Washington State is 9-2 against the spread on college football odds and 4-7 'over/under.'
Huskies Have Stellar Defense
Washington (5-6, 3-5) must win to get bowl eligible. The Huskies haven't missed one since the 2009 season, which was also the last time UW finished with a losing record (5-7). That was Steve Sarkisian's first season in Seattle. Washington was 8-6 under Coach Chris Petersen last year, his first, but lost a ton of starters, especially on defense.
The Huskies played perhaps their best offensive game of the season last weekend in a 52-7 rout of Oregon State. Washington scored the game's first 52 points. Freshman QB Jake Browning threw four touchdown passes (18-for-20 for 211 yards) and the Huskies scored on their first six possessions. They scored a school-record-tying 28 points in the first quarter -- UW had 30 total first-quarter points entering the game. Myles Gaskin added 127 yards on 23 carries.
If Browning keeps improving, Washington will be a Pac-12 force next year. It already has the conference's best defense. UW leads the Pac-12 in scoring defense, total defense and red-zone defense. It is second in pass defense and pass efficiency defense. UW opponents have scored just 14 touchdowns in 35 red-zone attempts (40.0 percent), best in the Pac-12.
The last three times that the Cougars were ranked in the AP Top 25 heading into an Apple Cup, as they are here, the Huskies have won the game (2001, 2002, 2003). Washington is 6-5 ATS on college football picks and 3-8 O/U.
Washington won in Pullman last season 31-13, the 100th career win for Petersen. It was bitterly cold that night. Dwayne Washington rushed for 135 yards and touchdown runs of 51 and 60 yards for Washington. The Huskies were on the verge of shutting out Washington State in Pullman for the first time since 1935 before Falk found Dom Williams on a 35-yard touchdown with 9:55 left. Wazzu's Leach has never had a team shut out in his head coaching career. Falk was 27-for-49 for 355 yard, two TDs and two picks. Washington State had 21 yards rushing on 18 attempts. Washington leads the all-time series 69-32-6 and is 39-15-5 in Seattle. UW has won three straight Apple Cups.
College Football Picks: I don't happen to think Falk plays. Go Washington and the 'under.' The 'under' is 4-0 in WSU's past four games and 9-2 in Washington's past 11 Pac-12 games. The 'under' is 5-2 in the past seven meetings.