The Huskies beat the Beavers 42-23. I went to that game, thanks to a free ticket from a friend; I’m pretty sure we got there midway through the first quarter and by the end it was 28-3 and I was thoroughly checked out. We spent, I want to say, most of the second quarter in a beer garden next to The Zone, and I think I was on my way out of the stadium before halftime.
Listen, this game was always going to be a walk-over, and really this was a day to spend with friends at our final tailgate of the season, as well as saying goodbye to the current incarnation of Dubs, WHO IS A VERY GOOD BOY YES HE IS YES HE IS!
This was all a nice little ramp-back-up for the ultimate showdown. This year’s Apple Cup will decide who plays for the Pac-12 North, which for all intents and purposes means it will decide who plays for the Pac-12 in the Rose Bowl (because, as usual, the Pac-12 South is a garbage fire).
The Huskies are 8-3 (6-2 in conference). The Cougars are 10-1 (7-1 in conference). With no third team involved, this is it. All the marbles.
The Cougars are favored, as they should be. They’re at home, but more importantly, they’ve been FANTASTIC this season. Every time I think they’re gonna coug it, they turn that notion on its head. In fact, if it weren’t for the Pac-12 Refs couging it in that USC game, they might be undefeated and in contention for a playoff spot. Seriously, at the very least – if they were undefeated right now – they’d be ranked 5th, and when Michigan loses to Ohio State this week, that’s their opening! With 1 loss, even if the Cougs win out, there’s just no way. Notre Dame isn’t losing, Clemson isn’t losing, and even if Bama loses they’d still get in there. Either Michigan wins out to take the final spot, or Ohio State leapfrogs everyone to get in there.
But, that’s neither here nor there. This week, it’s all about the apples.
Washington hasn’t lost this game since 2012. I can’t even remember the last time this game had so much riding on the line for both teams. It might be as far back as the 1981 season. The Huskies, under Don James, were 5-2 in conference at the time, looking to go back to their second straight Rose Bowl. The Cougars, under Jim Walden, were 5-1-1 in conference at the time, looking to go to their first Rose Bowl in 51 years. The game was played in Husky Stadium and the Huskies prevailed 23-10. We’d go on to beat Iowa in the Rose Bowl, while the Cougars lost to BYU in the Holiday Bowl.
Is there a chance history repeats itself? Boy, wouldn’t that be nice.
For what it’s worth, I know I should be more confident in the Huskies, but this just doesn’t feel like our year. We’ve struggled to incorporate a brand new offensive coordinator, our senior quarterback hasn’t progressed the way we’d hoped, we have no pass rush to speak of, our defense might be overrated, and I think the coaching in general has been a little suspect at times. It all boils down to the fact that the Huskies just might not be that good this year. It’s okay. They’re not always going to be like 2016.
Fortunes shine on the lucky sometimes, and the Cougars couldn’t be more fortunate with their scheduling. They played a less-than-nothing non-conference slate. They got all the best Pac-12 teams to come to Pullman (Utah, Oregon, Washington, Cal) and of their two tough road games, they lost to USC and the only really impressive win of their season game at Stanford a week after their tremendous home coronation against the Ducks. So, while it’s been impressive to see them not-coug it week-in and week-out, what’s left to wonder is: How good are the Cougars, really?
If there’s ever been a team built to beat the Cougars, it’s the Huskies. Since Coach Pete got here in 2014, we’ve been undefeated against them (a point of pride, in that Luke Falk went winless in his entire tenure with the Cougs). Now, obviously, Gardner Minshew is a million times better than Falk, but the offense is still that of Mike Leach, and we’ve still got one of the best secondaries in the nation. I don’t remember sacks being a huge part of our game in these last few Apple Cups; what I do remember is a lot of errant throws and Cougar drives ending in punts.
Ultimately, I don’t have a strong feeling one way or the other about the game this Friday. Gun to my head, I think the Cougs win it in a close one. But, nothing would surprise me, not even another Husky blowout. Which, if that’s the case, we’ll get to stop and smell the roses again VERY soon.