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Friday, November 23, 2012 - Page updated at 07:30 p.m.
Matchup: Washington at Washington State
Washington (7-4, 5-3); Washington State (2-9, 0-8)
Time: 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Martin Stadium.
TV: Ch. 13. Radio: KJR 950 AM, ESPN 710, 102.9 FM. The line: UW by 13 ½.
The setup: It's a surging UW team, winners of four in a row, against a deflated WSU squad, losers of eight straight. The fates of each team have been set — UW is off to a bowl, maybe the Vegas or Sun, while WSU's season ends Friday. But it's often said that WSU can save, or at least put a happier face, on the worst of seasons with a win in the Apple Cup.
Key matchup: WSU's pass offense against UW's secondary. The Cougars are 10th in the nation in passing at 328 yards per game. The Huskies are ninth in the nation in pass defense at 174.3. WSU's passing yards account for almost all of its 358 yards per game, so if the Cougars can't throw the ball it's hard to envision WSU winning.
What to expect: WSU will throw, throw and throw it some more, hoping to find gaps in UW's defense. Washington has rushed for at least 174 yards in each of its past three games and figures to try to establish the running game (led by tailback Bishop Sankey).
Notes: UW has a 67-31-6 edge in a series that dates to 1900. UW has won the past three, all under coach Steve Sarkisian, with WSU's last win coming in Pullman in 2008, 16-13 in double overtime. UW won 35-28 in 2010 in Pullman and 38-21 last year at CenturyLink Field. ... The Cougars plan to honor 13 seniors before the game, a group that includes quarterback Jeff Tuel, linebacker Travis Long and receiver Gino Simone. ... From 1934-61 the winner of the game was given the Governor's Trophy. In 1962 it was renamed Apple Cup. UW holds a 35-14 record since then. ... WSU is fifth in the Pac-12 in sacks and tied for 11th nationally with 32. ... UW has won two straight road games for the first time since the end of the 2010 season. It has not won three straight true road games in a season since 2000. ... The game will be televised live nationally on Ch. 13 with Craig Bolerjack on play-by-play, former Colorado quarterback Joel Klatt on color and former USC fullback Petros Papadakis handling the sidelines.
Upset brewing? Anything can happen, as illustrated by WSU wins in 1982 and 1992, or by UW in 2002, among other notable upsets. WSU has been competitive at times, notably at Stanford, a 24-17 loss, and also gaining 524 yards against UCLA. If the Cougars play as they did in those games, anything is possible.
Injuries: UW — The big question for UW is the status of cornerback Desmond Trufant, who sat out against Colorado with a lingering hamstring injury. He was said to be progressing this week, however, and the hope was that he would play. WSU — Like UW, WSU does not release injury updates. LB Travis Long, though, sat out practice early this week with an apparent knee injury, and QB Connor Halliday was also out this week with an apparent concussion.
Prediction: Washington 31, Washington State 17.
Offensive line — Each team entered the season with this area regarded as a serious question mark. But UW has steadied itself in the past month, starting the same five players during its four-game winning streak. WSU, though, has continued to struggle up front and allowed 53 sacks, the most in the nation.
Receivers — WSU's receiving corps took a hit when Marquess Wilson — still the team's leading receiver — quit the team. UW is led by Kasen Williams and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who have combined for 121 of UW's 226 receptions.
Quarterbacks — Each team entered the season with a QB getting preseason all-conference mention — WSU's Jeff Tuel and UW's Keith Price. Each has endured surprising struggles. Price, though, has begun to come out of his the last month, throwing for eight touchdowns in the past three games. Tuel has had to split time with Connor Halliday, but Halliday might not be available due to an apparent concussion.
Running backs — Almost an unfair position to judge given how rarely WSU uses its running backs. The Cougars' 228 rushing attempts are fewer than Bishop Sankey's 233. The 1,150 yards of Sankey — who went to high school at Gonzaga Prep in Spokane — gives the Huskies a big edge.
Defensive line — WSU has 32 sacks and allows just 4.1 yards per rush. UW is allowing 4.8 yards per rush and has 22 sacks. But UW's front, while far from dominant, has played increasingly well lately, led by sophomores Andrew Hudson and Danny Shelton. Freshman tackle Xavier Cooper has come on well for WSU this year with 8.5 tackles for a loss.
Linebackers — WSU moved Travis Long to linebacker before the season, and the senior has been a standout, with 9.5 sacks. But he might miss the game with a knee injury, forcing the Cougars to go with sophomore Logan Mayes. UW's linebacking corps entered the season as a huge question mark but has turned into a strength thanks to the emergence of freshmen Shaq Thompson and Travis Feeney on the outside and sophomore John Timu in the middle.
Secondary — This area has been the key to Washington's defensive improvement this season, led by senior safety Justin Glenn, junior safety Sean Parker and senior cornerback Desmond Trufant, likely to play despite a sore hamstring. WSU, meanwhile, is allowing teams to complete 66.1 percent of passes, worst in the conference other than Colorado.
Special teams — Not a great strength for either team. But WSU has made a bevy of costly mistakes on special teams in recent weeks while UW has had a knack for making big plays — and generally covering well when needed.
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