That's the unusual situation Washington State faces for this year's Dec. 4 Apple Cup showdown against Washington in Martin Stadium. A scheduling quirk means the Cougars get not one Saturday, but two Saturdays off before playing the season finale against the Huskies.
In what has been one weird era of the Apple Cup, why would a 21-day break be a big surprise?
I can't imagine any coach complaining about having three weeks to prepare for a regular season game. But for pedestrian Washington? Couldn't it be Oregon and its wacky offense? Or a bruiser like Stanford?
No matter. It's the Huskies, and if you're going to savor a good trick play working, why not against the rival. Particularly a rival whose fan base already chalked this Apple Cup in the victory column weeks ago.
As everyone's lovable college football curmudgeon Lee Corso would say, not so fast my friends.
NOT ONLY DOES Washington State have a big chance to win this year's Apple Cup, I think there's reason to believe the Cougars will be favored when Las Vegas releases game lines for Apple Cup week.
Holy Bill Dietz.
Remember how this was supposed to be the season when Jake Locker escorted Washington back to the postseason? You know, on his way to a Heisman Trophy run? Followed by Sark running to the AD's office, looking for another contract extension, or at least another yacht club membership?
Instead, only a miracle puts UW in a bowl game. There will be no Heisman Trophy. And there are more than a few Husky fans wondering if Steve Sarkisian
is yet another bad coaching hire by their school's administration.
This is the guy, after all, who vowed during a preseason event with team boosters, (which was broadcast live on KJR-AM) that the Huskies would not lose a single home game this season. UW is 2-3 and have been outscored 175 – 111 at Husky Stadium.
On Dec. 4, it's possible Paul Wulff may be exchanging a hot seat, in addition to a handshake, with Sarkisian after the game.
There have been a few decent performances by Washington this season, most notably the one-point wins over USC and Oregon State. But it doesn't come close to covering up the stench of the Nebraska debacle, or the rump-roastings to Arizona and Stanford.
When a 37-point loss at Oregon counts as a moral victory, isn't it time to rethink things in Seattle?
The problem at Washington isn't so much the losses. It's that the Huskies don't appear to be any better two years in Sarkisian's regime than they were under Tyrone Willingham. And if there's one thing Husky Nation agrees with, it's that Willingham was the worst coach in school history. So far, the Sarkisian regime has done little to distance itself from the days of Ty Willie.
Washington's defense, led by college football's most overpaid coordinator in Nick Holt,
is an embarrassment. Well over a million dollars per year in defensive coaching salaries are producing a defense that ranks No. 118 against the run, No. 91 against the pass, No. 110 overall and No. 109 in scoring.
On the other hand, good for Washington State.
Work to be done: That's not to say things couldn't change a bit for Washington. Unlike WSU, the Huskies still have two games to play before the Apple Cup. Tonight, UW entertains UCLA in Husky Stadium, followed by a Nov. 27 game at California. It's still possible Washington (3-6) will have a bowl berth at stake when it plays the Cougars. That means the Huskies would have to beat both UCLA and California. But seriously, does anyone on this planet outside of the Graves Building believe that will happen?
Statistically speaking: Statistically, there isn't one thing Washington does well. Of all categories tracked nationally, the best the Huskies can boast is a No. 51 in turnover margin. In fact, Washington ranks among the bottom half of the country's 119 Division I teams in 16 of 17 categories. Washington State has been better than that, with three categories (pass offense, sacks, and tackles for loss) higher than No. 60.
The series: This is the 91st game of the series, led by Washington 57-29-4. The Huskies won 30-0 last year in Seattle, but the Cougars won last time in Pullman, 16-13 in 2008. WSU has won four of the past six games.
The Jim Moore zone: As we mentioned above, the Apple Cup line won't be released until Sunday of game week. But we'll hazard a guess and say it will be somewhere around pick ‘em, unless something radical changes with Washington during the next two weeks.
The Cougar connections: Senior Husky defensive tackle Cameron Elisara is the son of Cougar Matt Elisara, a first-team All-Pac-10 nose guard on Washington State's 1981 Holiday Bowl. Mom Cheryl is a WSU grad and older brother Travis was the scout team QB for the Cougars in 2004. Johnny Nansen, UW's recruiting coordinator and special teams and defensive line coach, was a three year letterman at linebacker for Washington State (1994-96).
Read Nick Daschel's occasional Pac-10 ramblings at twitter.com/nickdaschel
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