Trap Alert: Fade Cougars in Annual Apple Cup Beatdown in Seattle

Washington Huskies player in action

Rainman M.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017 2:34 PM UTC

Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2017 2:34 PM UTC

No. 17 Washington (9-2) hosts No. 13 Washington State (9-2) in the 110th Apple Cup. The Cougars, despite being ranked higher than Washington, opened as alluring double-digit underdogs until heavy public action bet that spread to as low as 9.

Free NCAAF Pick: Washington -9.5Best Line Offered: Bovada

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Washington State Cougars vs Washington Huskies  

The Cougars’ offense relies primarily on their aerial attack. They rank first in 69.9% pass play percentage.

Their pass offense’s kryptonite is protection. They rank 128th in sacks allowed per game. The two non-covers in games led by quarterback Luke Falk came against Boise State and Cal. The former achieved 5 sacks and limited Falk to fewer than 200 pass yards. The latter achieved 9 sacks and forced Falk into 5 interceptions. The Cougars’ pass offense is easily dampened by a strong pass rush. Washington ranks 15th in team sack percentage.

For instance, besides the two aforementioned games, Falk showed against Colorado his inability to escape pressure and keep his eyes downfield. The Huskies have multiple players who can disrupt Falk’s pocket, including linebackers Tevis Bartlett and Ryan Bowman, who lead the Huskies with combined 19 tackles for loss and 8 sacks. The Huskies linebackers can be so effective because of the strength, size, and quickness off the snap with which nose tackle Vita Vea engages multiple blockers and secures gap integrity.

Falk, ever inconsistent, should struggle to find time to throw against Washington’s 23rd-ranked defense, in terms of opposing passer rating. 

The bane of the Huskies’ pass defense is the lack of height and experience of their cornerbacks. Tavares Martin, easily the Cougars’ leading and most talented receiver, lacks the size to exploit the Huskies’ weakness. His only 100+ yard receiving games came against pass defenses outside the top 75.

The Huskies, who rank 5th in allowing 3 yards per carry, can easily keep the Cougars, who rank second-to-last with 2.8 YPC, one-dimensional. The Cougars’ offensive predictability makes them more susceptible to the Huskies’ pass rush. Washington dominated its two pass-first opponents, Cal 38-7 and UCLA 44-23. They limited each quarterback to under 100 yards passing and achieved 8 sacks against Cal, 4 against UCLA. Washington State lacks the offensive versatility, the offensive line, the depth and talent at wide receiver and the quarterback consistency with Falk, whose passer rating drops over 40 points and whose completion % drops over 10 on the road, to score.

Washington, unlike Washington State, benefits from offensive balance. Myles Gaskin leads the Huskies with 6 YPC. Jake Browning is a reliable decision-maker with an 18:5 touchdown to interception ratio.

Their offensive style matches up well against the Cougars’ speed-first defense. An offense best counteracts speed by getting the speedy defenders running in the wrong direction. Washington’s ability to maintain offensive balance encourages the effectivity of its misdirection plays, which prevents the defense from expecting either run or pass and from reacting quickly to the play.

Gaskin, who averages 1.5 YPC more in the second half, can wear down the Cougars’ linebacking corps which is thinned by injury, the loss of starting middle linebacker Peyton Pelluer and his backup, Nate DeRider, is listed as ‚questionable.‘ Browning has excelled at home, where his passer rating is 30+ points higher than on the road. On the season, the Huskies average 27 points on the road, but 40 at home.

The Verdict

The Huskies have dominated the Cougars, winning their past 4 Apple Cups, each time by 10+. The Huskies boast offensive balance whose style matches up well with WSU’s emphasis on speed. Washington’s defense is physical and can make the inconsistent Falk uncomfortable.  Falk is unsupported by his poor offensive line, lack of talent at running back and lack of talented size and depth at wide receiver. He will struggle to keep his team within single digits on our NCAAF Picks.

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