NO. 16 WASHINGTON (8-3) AT NO. 8 WASHINGTON STATE (10-1)
5:30 p.m., Friday, Martin Stadium
The line: Washington State -2.5
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Bellingham Herald
Radio: KOMO-AM 1000/FM-97.7
Outlook: The season has led to this moment: the Apple Cup, two ranked teams and the Pac-12 North on the line. The winner of this game will advance to the conference championship game against Utah.
This matchup has all the makings of a classic. It features Washington State’s electric, pass-heavy offense — led by graduate transfer quarterback Gardner Minshew — against the Huskies’ deep and talented secondary.
Washington State leads the Pac-12 and is 14th in the country in yards per game with 482.3. The Cougars are also first in the nation in passing yards per game with 400.5. Minshew leads in the country in passing yards, completing 407-of-578 passes for 4,328 yards, 36 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Washington State head coach Mike Leach knows how to keep his offense simple but effective, said Huskies head coach Chris Petersen.
“He doesn’t have a ton of plays,” Petersen said. “Year-to-year, it looks the same. Maybe a couple little tweaks. There might be a new route in there we haven’t seen. If he does that, he takes a route out because he’s not going to overload his kids. He is as sharp as they come when it comes to football.”
On the other side is Washington’s defense, which is second in the conference in yards allowed per game (318.0) and first in points allowed per game (16.6). The Huskies are second in the Pac-12 in passing yards allowed per game, giving up 192.8.
Both teams are coming off victories. Washington beat Oregon State 42-23, while Washington State pounded Arizona 69-28. Minshew passed for 473 yards and seven touchdowns in the victory. The Cougars have won seven straight games since falling to USC in September.
Eight different Washington State players have at least 300 receiving yards this season, led by running back James Williams who has caught 69 passes for 530 yards and four touchdowns.
Running back Myles Gaskin has been rolling for the Huskies since returning from injury. Gaskin averaged 141.5 rushing yards in UW’s victories over Stanford and Oregon State.
UW’s key to victory: The Huskies have to stop WSU’s passing attack and match points with the Cougars. A big day by Gaskin can help control the clock and limit WSU’s possessions.
WSU’s key to victory: The Cougars have been run out of the stadium by the Huskies early in the last four games. Consider: WSU trailed 34-0 in 2017, 28-3 in 2016, 24-3 in 2015 and 31-0 in 2014. So they need a better start, and continued magic by the Mississippi Moustache if they want to beat the Huskies for the first time since 2012.
Prediction: UW 34, Washington State 31