Despite living in the heart of Big 10 country, I have always been drawn to the Apple Cup rivalry game between PAC-12 in-state rivals Washington and Washington State.
U-Dub vs Wazzu.
Big-city Starbucks-drinking Seattle vs. out-of-the-way country bumpkin Pullman.
The Apple Cup is more than just dogs vs. cats, as in Huskies vs. Cougars, but perhaps one of the most underrated rivalry games in the country.
If you make not have heard of it before, you will become very familiar with it by the end of the afternoon, as this is THE Apple Cup rivalry game to end all.
In terms of West Coast rivalry games, the Apple Cup lacks the glitz and glamour of USC vs. Notre Dame and UCLA, the elitist and liberal academia battle of intellectualism as Cal and Stanford, the pure and open hatred that is the “Civil War” in neighboring Oregon between Oregon and Oregon State, or the bitter and nasty grudge match in the Southwest known as the Territorial Cup between Arizona and Arizona State.
In a series that started back in 1900 with a 5-5 tie, and that the Huskies have dominated in holding a 70-32-8 lead, including last season’s 45-10 rout in Seattle, can the Cougars return the favor this year in Pullman?
With a trip to the Pac-12 title game on the line and in-state bragging rights from Walla Walla to Spokane on the line, sixth-ranked Washington rolls into Pullman on the heels of a 44-18 romp of Arizona State. Ranked fifth in the College Football Playoff rankings, the 10-1 Huskies can ill afford a loss as they will likely face a resurgent Colorado Buffaloes or red-hot USC Trojans team—that soundly defeated them in Seattle—in Santa Clara.
Standing in their way is perhaps the most underrated NFL QB prospect in the country in the Cougars 6’4 205-pound junior quarterback, Luke Falk.
Falk, who many are stating is a sleeper in the coming 2017 NFL Draft—if he declares—has completed 71.4 percent of his passes for 3,935 yards and 36 touchdowns in running Mike Leach’s high-octane Air Raid offense.
Some may say that he is just a by-product of the system, other can argue that he be the latest big-armed gunslinger to go from Pullman to the NFL.
Yes, we all know that Ryan Leaf was an epic bust, but other Cougs to do well in the league include Super Bowl champion Drew Bledsoe. If the 23rd-ranked Cougars have any shot of beating a very dangerous Huskies squad, then they will need to get physical with their receivers such as John Ross and make Washington quarterback Jake Browning uncomfortable.
If such scenarios were to happen, then Falk would join both Bledsoe (in’ 92) and Leaf (‘in ’97) in upsetting a highly-ranked Huskie teams, with Leaf leading Wazzu to the Rose Bowl.
While Wazzu will not be able to go to the College Football playoff, ruining Washington’s playoff hopes AND going to the Pac-12 title game with a shot at the Rose Bowl is worth it for the upset-minded Cougars.
As with all rivalry games, you throw rankings and records out of the window, and in such a heated rivalry game such as the Apple Cup, is no exception.
If there is one edge in this game that will decide things, it is the secondary of Washington, led by future top-ten pick in cornerback Sidney Jones and a very opportunistic ball-hawking secondary. Depending on how Leach and Falk choose to attack Washington downfield is what will likely decide this game, and who represents the Pac-12 North.
Based on current trends, it looks like Washington better book its tickets for Levi Stadium.
Prediction: Washington 41 Washington State 31