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NCAA Football

Washington vs Washington State: 2011 Apple Cup Preview

Since Steve Sarkisian has been the head coach at Washington the Huskies are 2-0 in the annual Apple Cup rivalry game against Washington State. Saturday Washington(6-5, 4-4) will look to make it three straight for the first time since 2000-2003 while also snapping their current three game losing streak. For Washington State(4-7, 2-6) the game no longer has bowl implications but it still has the potential to be Paul Wulff’s final game as head coach.

Coming into this season Wulff was on the hot seat having won only five games in three years. However with a measurable turnaround in the program this season Wulff’s Apple Cup showing could hold the key to his fate in Pullman. While their bowl hopes faded last week after their 30-27 overtime loss to Utah Washington State will treat this Apple Cup like a bowl game.

With Washington having already clinched their bowl berth back in week eight against Arizona this will be a game that needs to get the team back on track. Since their 42-31 win over Arizona Washington has only cracked the 20 point plateau once in their 38-21 loss against Oregon State.

Over the last three weeks most of the blame has been placed on defensive coordinator Nick Holt. Holt’s defense currently ranks 105th in the nation for points against (34.5), 97th in yards per game (430) and 100th in total yards (4,734). Holt’s also one of the highest paid assistant coaches in the country at $650,000 a year. While the numbers have looked horrendous, and the play looking even worse the blame shouldn’t fall solely  on Holt.

Washington’s offense has died off a lot since their explosive start this season when they ranked in the top 10 in the nation. Sophomore quarterback Keith Price has battled a lot of injuries this season mainly to his ankles and knee’s which have hindered his performance as of late. After sitting most of last weekends game out against Oregon State Price is fully healthy coming into the Apple Cup which will be key for Washington.

With Price healthy and in sync with Kearse, Seferian-Jenkins and Devin Aguilar this offense has the ability to put up 40 plus on Washington State’s defense. The major key for Washington will be runningback Chris Polk who pounded Washington State last year rushing for 284 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries. While Washington won’t need Polk to duplicate his performance from last year they will need a good balanced attack to get the win.

With the insecurity on the defensive side of the ball for Washington this game could very well wind up a shootout which gives Washington a slight edge. Washington State senior quarterback Marshall Lobbestael starting in his first and last Apple Cup will have to score early and often to get Washington’s defense backed up. If Washington State can do that then they have a good shot at ending Washington’s hopes of a three-peat.

Prediction: Washington 42-Washington State 28

Notes:

RB Chris Polk s 304 yards away from Napoleon Kaufman’s record for career rushing yards (4,106).

QB Keith Price is 2 touchdowns away from Cody Pickett’s record for passing touchdowns in a single season (28).

You can follow Lars on Twitter:  http://twitter.com/larshanson