Huard: Does this ‘epic’ Apple Cup mean more to UW Huskies or WSU?
The latest installment of the annual Apple Cup game between the UW Huskies and WSU Cougars adds another chapter between the two in-state rivals this Saturday in Pullman, and both teams enter the contest red hot.
The No. 12-ranked Huskies are now 9-2 after a 54-7 blowout win over Colorado for their fifth win in a row, while the Cougs are 7-4 after a 31-20 win over Arizona, giving them three consecutive wins after a three-game losing streak midway through the season.
The two teams face off in a late 7:30 p.m. kickoff at Martin Stadium (coverage will be carried on Seattle Sports 710 AM starting with pregame at 5:30), and one former member of the rivalry is really looking forward to seeing this Apple Cup.
“What this sets up is an epic Apple Cup. It does,” FOX college football analyst and former UW Huskies quarterback Brock Huard said Monday morning on Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk. “Both teams are playing tremendous. Both teams have found who they are. Both transfer quarterbacks you can tell have grown in confidence.”
For the Huskies, their transfer quarterback is Michael Penix Jr., a lefty who came from Indiana, where first-year UW head coach Kalen DeBoer was his offensive coordinator in 2019. Penix has been able to finally stay healthy and has shined in his first year at Montlake, leading the nation in passing yards and while completing 66.7% of his passes with 26 touchdown passes.
TIE GAME 😅
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) November 13, 2022
Meanwhile for WSU, Cameron Ward transferred to Pullman from Incarnate Word as his head coach there, Eric Morris, became the Cougars’ new offensive coordinator. Ward has completed 64.2% of his passes for 2,772 yards and 21 touchdowns.
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) September 24, 2022
But the two teams aren’t succeeding just because of their quarterbacks, both of whom will play their first Apple Cup this weekend.
“The Huskies’ O-line is playing as good as they played since 2016. Receivers, obviously, as good as they played since 2016,” Huard said. “And Penix (is) right there with Jake Browning, ripping up some of his records – not gonna quite catch his 40-some touchdown passes that year.”
“On the other side, WSU’s D-line,” Huard added. “When WSU has been very good, there’s been one common theme through the decades – their defensive line, I faced them in ’97, bunch of NFL dudes … and they were awesome. Early 2000s, tremendous defensive line. And what they’re doing on that side of the ball all season long playing eight, nine, 10 guys, something that’s not normally the case at WSU where it’s hard to find quality D-linemen and front seven people. And their middle linebacker (Daiyan Henley) is an All-American.”
Huard thinks this year’s Apple Cup should be a good and close matchup between the two rivals. He also thinks UW currently being favored by 2.5 points sounds right because they’ve been more consistent this season.
“This is going to be a nail-biter and I think one that’ll go down in the annals as one of the more enjoyable games to watch on a very, very late Saturday night,” Huard said.
So who would a win be more important to?
For WSU, it would give them back-to-back Apple Cup wins over UW for the first time since 2007 and 2008. It would also give head coach Jake Dickert a 2-0 record against the Huskies.
But Huard thinks a win is more important to UW this year. And that’s not because it’s DeBoer’s first Apple Cup or that the Huskies got beaten down bad on their home field last season.
Instead, it’s because a win over WSU would give UW a 10-2 record and, depending what happens in this week’s Pac-12 games before the Apple Cup, may also give the Huskies a spot in the Pac-12 Championship against USC.
In order for the Dawgs to make it to the conference title game and face the Trojans, they need a win over the Cougs and to get some help in a few other Pac-12 games.
One scenario is UW beats WSU after Cal beats UCLA on Friday, then Oregon State beats Oregon on Saturday.
The second scenario still would require UW beating WSU and Oregon State beating Oregon. But if UCLA beats Cal on Friday, then the Huskies would need Colorado to beat Utah.
What helps the Huskies, potentially, is that all those games will be over before their late kickoff against the Cougars.
“So they will know the outcomes of those games. And if those dominoes fall and they beat the Cougs, they’re playing USC in the Pac-12 Championship game,” Huard said. “So I don’t think there’s any question who it’s more important to in that way. Obviously for Dickert and WSU and for what they’ve done this year it’d be an enormous feather in the cap and would better the bowl game.”
If kickoff rolls around and the Huskies aren’t playing for a trip to the conference title game, they’ll still have much more to play for than just pride against a rival.
“For the Huskies depending … what happens in the tiebreakers, they’ll still have a chance to play for a Pac-12 title,” Huard said. “And if you get to 10-2 (and some teams ranked ahead of them lose) … now all of a sudden you become relevant to a New Year’s Six bowl if you go 10-2.”
Listen to the second hour of Monday’s Brock and Salk at this link or in the player below.