Washington Huskies at Washington State Cougars, Friday Nov. 25, 1:30 p.m. ET
It is absolutely amazing how far the Apple Cup has come in such a short time. One of the more storied rivalries in college football — this rivalry contest has been played 108 times since 1900 — was basically unwatchable not too long ago. In 2008 Washington State was 1-10 heading into the game in which they beat a winless Washington team in double overtime. Now, just eight years later, the winner of this game will win the Pac-12 North and face Colorado or USC for the conference title. It’s amazing what can happen when schools hire strong coaches and get out of their way. Washington has an overwhelming advantage in the series to date — they are 70-32-6 and have won three in a row and six of seven. None of that matters now, though, because these are the best teams that either program has fielded in a very long time.
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The implications here stretch beyond just the berth in the conference championship game. Washington needs to not only win but dominate if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive. Utah lost last week, which weakens them and decreases the impressiveness of Washington’s win over them. Beating Washington State will also drop them to four losses and make the victory less impressive as well. Washington really lacks strength of schedule, so their only hope is a tour de force performance here and in the conference championship game and some real setbacks for other teams in the next two weeks.
Washington at Washington State Betting Storylines
The biggest asset Washington State has here is QB Luke Falk. Unfortunately, he is coming off his worst performance of the season. Falk has completed will over 70 percent of his passes on the year with 36 touchdowns and just seven picks and nearly 4,000 yards. Impressive. In the biggest game of the year to that point, though, he had a rough day against Colorado. He still threw three touchdowns and only one interception, but he completed less than half his passes — just twice before this year had he completed less than 71.7 percent of passes, and both of those times he had still completed 58.3. When the team really needed him down the stretch he wasn’t nearly as sharp as he needed to be. The Cougars are in tough here anyway, but they will be very hard pressed to win here if Falk isn’t dominant — as he was against Arizona, completing 32 of 35 passes for four touchdowns.
We could look at Washington’s offensive stars, but by now we know that Jake Browning and company are talented guys who can score points. Instead, I want to look at a story that broke on Monday, isn’t going to get a ton of coverage, and is very odd. Darren Gardenhire was a starting quarterback early in the year. He lost that job but has played in every game this year and would have been well positioned to start again next year. On Monday he announced on Instagram that he was leaving the team immediately. On the field it doesn’t matter too much — depth is nice but not crucial. When something like that happens, though, you have to wonder what is going on behind closed doors with the program and whether their heads are where they need to be for this test. I’m not saying that this is a game changer, but I haven’t been able to shake it from my mind since I heard it.
Washington at Washington State Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Washington favored by 5.5 points, and that has since climbed to 6. Nearly three-quarters of bets in early action have been on the Huskies, so the line movement isn’t surprising. If momentum stays where it is then we could see the line move to the key number of seven in time.
Washington is 1-4 ATS in their last five games — all conference games. They are 4-1 ATS in their last five games played on a Friday. The Cougars are 9-2 ATS in their last 11 home games, 12-5 ATS in their last 17 conference games, and 15-6 ATS in their last 21 games overall.
Washington at Washington State Predictions and Picks
I did not like anything about Washington’s loss to USC, but I really liked how well they shook off the setback and came back very strong against Arizona State. It showed toughness and good coaching. The Gardenhire story is a bit of a concern regarding the mindset, but I don’t ultimately view it as a deciding factor. Washington State wasn’t up to their biggest test last week, and I don’t have faith in them here, either. The Huskies can match the Cougars offensively, and have more depth and talent overall. I would struggle with this pick if the line was over a touchdown, but as it is I see no real choice but to take the Huskies at this price.
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