Jim Moore predicts final games for No. 8 WSU and No. 18 UW before Apple Cup
If the Huskies beat the Beavers Saturday at Husky Stadium – and there’s a good chance they will since they’re favored by 33 1/2 points – the winner of next Friday’s Apple Cup will be the Pac-12 North champion.
That’s regardless of what happens Saturday night in Pullman when the Cougars play the Arizona Wildcats. So is that a good thing or a bad thing? I wonder about that because I remember Washington State’s game at Colorado two years ago. The Cougs were in the same situation, not needing to beat the Buffaloes because the Apple Cup was going to settle the North either way. Colorado won that game, and the Cougs lost in the Apple Cup the next week too.
This year there’s more on the line for the Cougs. They’re No. 8 in the College Football Playoff rankings, and if they want to hang on to the slim chance of getting into the final four, they have to beat Arizona. But in your heart of hearts, do you really feel like there’s much of a chance for a CFP berth to happen? They need a slew of upsets involving teams in front of them, and this week upsets aren’t likely. The best chance for an upset is at South Bend, Ind., where Notre Dame is favored by 10 1/2 over Syracuse. Every other team in the top 7 is favored by three or four touchdowns or more this week.
Maybe the upsets will happen in the next two weeks when conference championships are played. But even if that happens, can Washington State jump ahead of three other teams to get into the national-championship playoff? I’m not sure how much credit the playoff committee will give the Cougs for beating Arizona, Washington and a Pac-12 South champion with three losses in conference play. I’d consider them all quality wins, but I doubt the committee will feel the same way.
So let’s just say it’s a longshot, and with that being the case, I’m wary of the Arizona game. In the category of must-win games, this rates pretty low on the scale. And it’s concerning that the Cougs are facing a suddenly hot Arizona team, the team we thought we’d see at the beginning of the year but didn’t. Khalil Tate is healthy now, and it shows – the Wildcats walloped Oregon three weeks ago and beat Colorado two weeks ago as Tate threw for 350 yards and five TDs. The Wildcats’ running back, J.J. Taylor, worries me too – he’s rushed for 1,221 yards this season. Then I think back to what the Wildcats did to the Cougs last year in Tucson; they tore the Cougs apart.
It promises to be different this year, playing at home and with an improved defense under new coordinator Tracy Claeys, who has been an upgrade over Alex Grinch.
I still think the Cougs will win, but I expect it will be closer than the oddsmakers think – Washington State is favored by 9 1/2. Cougars 35, Wildcats 31.
The Beavers beat the Huskies 21-20 as 38-point underdogs in 1985 so it’s happened before. But I can’t see the Huskies letting this one slip away, not on Senior Day with Jake Browning playing his last game at Husky Stadium. Huskies 35, Beavers 10.
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