Apple Cup: Why WSU could spoil No. 4 UW Huskies’ dream season
Nov 23, 2023, 9:24 AM | Updated: Nov 25, 2023, 5:07 pm
It’s been a dream season for the No. 4 UW Huskies, who are perfect going into the annual Apple Cup on Saturday against the rival WSU Cougars.
The Dawgs are 11-0, putting them on the verge of the first undefeated run through Pac-12 play by any program since the conference expanded to 12 teams in 2011. Head coach Kalen DeBoer and Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Michael Penix Jr. have orchestrated one of the greatest two-year turnarounds in college football history. And as the new No. 4 team in the College Football Playoff rankings, they’re in the driver’s seat to make the bracket to determine the national championship.
Of course, there’s nothing the Cougs would love to do more than ruin that dream.
WSU goes into Saturday needing a win itself, because at 5-6 the Cougars have yet to clinch bowl eligibility. And if that win happens to dash the Huskies’ national title hopes, all the better in Pullman, right?
FOX play-by-play announcer Jason Benetti will be on the TV call along with Seattle Sports’ own Brock Huard, so he joined his broadcast partner on Brock and Salk this week to share his thoughts on the Apple Cup. That included fielding a question from Brock’s other partner, Mike Salk, about not selling the Cougs short.
“The Huskies obviously are such an intriguing story and the Cougs have not had the kind of season they want, but they’re not a bad team,” Salk said. “You don’t take them seriously, they’re going to win this game. So what have you seen from Washington State?”
Benetti began his answer by recalling a big WSU win he called last season when QB Cam Ward, head coach Jake Dickert and the Cougs knocked off a Wisconsin team that was ranked No. 19 at the time.
“We had them last year at Wisconsin and they kind of ruined Wisconsin’s season. You know, (former Wisconsin coach) Paul Chryst ended up getting fired a couple of weeks later,” Benetti said. “They’re one of those teams offensively that feels like a poker player that just tries to get you to not know what they’re betting – that they don’t have a strategy. I’m not saying that in any negative way. They pass so much and Cam Ward is such a dangerous guy, and yes, he’s made a couple mistakes here and there, but they have talent, they have skill, and they are willing to wing the ball all over the yard.”
And here’s why the UW Huskies need to be careful.
“I think that level of scoring capacity can just make you live on edge as a fan of the Huskies,” Benetti continued. “Defensively, who knows if they’re going to be able to handle all of (Washington’s offensive) skill on the outside. But for me, it’s about that ability to put up (56 points like) they put up last weekend against Colorado. It’s scary.”
Even though Washington is the obvious favorite, especially with the game at Husky Stadium, you can never discount the ability for things to not go as expected in a rivalry game.
“This series, I don’t need to tell anybody here – like, I’m the midwesterner who has read up on it recently and people there have lived it for 50 years – but this series is littered with games that you would say, ‘No way they won,’ and they’ve done it handily,” Benetti said. “Emotion is a funny thing. The mom lifting the bus off of their kids sort of thing is real, and there are scenarios where this just gets dicey.”
Benetti, who along with Huard also had the assignment to call Oregon-Oregon State the day before the Apple Cup, said that goes for both of those games.
“For me, if you’re Oregon and Washington, you want a big halftime lead or else you’re in for it.”
The Apple Cup will kick off at 1 p.m. Saturday, with the WSU Radio Network broadcast airing on Seattle Sports 710 AM and the Seattle Sports app beginning at 11 a.m. with the pregame show.
Listen to the full Brock and Salk conversation with FOX broadcaster Jason Benetti in the podcast at this link or in the player near the top of this post.
More on the Apple Cup
• Bumpus: What WSU must do to upset UW in Apple Cup
• Huard: UW’s ‘phenomenal’ Odunze a blend of two NFL WRs
• Lewis: Apple Cup is here to stay – whether Cougs like it or not
• Apple Cup Lives On: UW and WSU to keep playing through 2028