3 key WSU matchups to look for in Apple Cup

IT’S THE MOST anticipated Apple Cup in decades, with both Washington State and Washington eyeing the Pac-12 title. Here are three key position battles from CF.C analyst Matt Moore, who says whoever wins these matchups likely wins the Apple Cup and the right to represent the North in the Pac-12 championship game in Santa Clara on Dec. 2.

1. Luke Falk vs Budda Baker
Falk's accuracy this season looks like a misprint (71.4 percent) but Baker will be constantly lurking in the secondary come Friday. Listed as a 5-10, 192-pound defensive back on UW's official roster, the junior a natural playmaker and legitimate All-America candidate. And so is Falk.

2. Gabe Marks vs Sidney Jones
UW kicks out NFL defensive backs almost as often as Jerramy Stevens kicks out jury summons. UW's Kevin King may also be involved Friday but from my chair, Marks-Jones figures to be a titanic matchup between a pair of two-time, first-team Al--Pac-12 players. It could be the hallmark performance of Marks' epic WSU career ... or Jones could wind up staking out a similar claim.

3. Hercules Mata'afa vs Jake Browning
Browning is lethal when he has time to throw, but has looked shaky under pressure. WSU has a dangerous pass rusher in Mata'afa, but he needs to have more noticeable of a big-play impact than he did at Colorado. If not, Husky WR John Ross will do what he's done to most everyone this season, and beat the Cougars deep.

RELATED STORY: WSU still on track to reach its goal of Rose Bowl berth

NOTABLE NOTE: Friday's Apple Cup will be the first time since 1981 that a conference title has been on the line for both teams. The 1997 Apple Cup win sent the Cougars to the Rose Bowl for the first time in 67 years. For the Cougs, it's the biggest Apple Cup since 2002 when they were ranked No. 3 in the nation and in the race for both the Rose Bowl and national title.

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