Here in Pullman. Clear skies. Very cold. And thermometer is dropping, not climbing.
Ate some lunch at the C.U.B (Compton Union Building, for you non-WSU types), and walked by Martin Stadium. A mass clearing project with 3-4 front-loaders and tractors, and about 20-25 workers on the turf, shoveling remaining snow and ice.
One WSU official estimated 75 dumptruck loads of snow (or snow boulders) have been taken out of the stadium this week.
The big question is, who does the cold, ice and possible snow really benefit Saturday?
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Obviously the Cougars are better conditioned for these elements. They see it evey day during the winter. They've practiced in it the past week.
But usually with a field-turned-ice-skating-rink situation, game plans change accordingly - usually becoming more conservative. And if it becomes a ground-and-pound matchup, the Huskies would like nothing more than to exploit their greatest advantage - unleashing Chris Polk and Jesse Callier 40-45 times.
On the flip side, WSU will likely need a big game (not just big, but HUGE) out of quarterback Jeff Tuel, spreading the Huskies out. A clear field will certainly aid that cause.
Here is my expanded preview chart:
Washington (5-6, 4-4 in Pac-10)at Washington State (2-9, 1-7)
Kickoff: 4 p.m. Saturday, Martin Stadium, Pullman.
Television: Versus. Radio: 850-AM, 950-AM.
The series: Saturday will mark the 103rd meeting between the two in-state rivals, dating back to 1900. Washington leads, 65-31-6, including a 30-0 victory last season. The Cougars have won four of the past six meetings, including a 16-13 double-overtime triumph the last time the teams met in Pullman in 2008. The UW is 15-13-1 at Martin Stadium.
The coaches: UW’s Steve Sarkisian (10-13 record) is in his second season. He spent seven seasons as an assistant at Southern California. WSU’s Paul Wulff (5-30) is in his third season. His first Pacific-10 Conference win came against the Huskies two seasons ago. The former Cougars’ center spent 15 seasons at Eastern Washington, including eight as coach (2000-07).
Last season: Jake Locker accounted for 290 yards, and the Huskies posted the first shutout in the series since 1968 (24-0 WSU win) in Sarkisian’s Apple Cup-coaching debut. The UW rushed for 212 second-half yards, compared to WSU’s 163 total for the game. Injury report: For UW – DE Talia Crichton (knee) is out; S Sean Parker (shoulder) is doubtful; LT Senio Kelemete (foot) is questionable; P Kiel Rasp (back) is probable.
For WSU – DT Justin Clayton (knee), LT David Gonzales (arm) and CB Matthew Simmons (shoulder) are out; CB Damante Horton (knee) is doubtful; LB Alex Hoffman-Ellis (back) and WR Gino Simone (head) are probable.
QuarterbackStill struggling with sore ribs, UW’s Jake Locker is still a threat with the game on the line. Jeff Tuel is the next standout up-and-comer in the Pac-10 for the Cougars.EDGE: Even.
Running backJames Montgomery (leg) is the feel-good recovery story around the Palouse, and Logwone Mitz certainly has an Apple Cup moment to brag about from 2008. Neither is in the class of Chris Polk, who should get another 1,000-yard season today.EDGE: Huskies.
ReceiverInterestingly enough, Jermaine Kearse will likely be named one of the all-conference receivers, and made the big late-game catch against California. But the more explosive threat is on the other side – WSU’s Marquess Wilson.EDGE: Cougars.
Offensive lineBoth teams are on the same rebuilding effort, and have a real true-freshman standout to build upon at left tackle (UW’s Erik Kohler and WSU’s John Fullington). Kelemete’s up-in-the-air status leaves the Huskies in a lurch.EDGE: Even.
Defensive lineProbably the biggest reason for the UW defense’s improvement over the past month, especially with newcomers Hau’oli Jamora and Semisi Tokolahi playing well. WSU defensive end Travis Long can’t do it all by himself.EDGE: Huskies.
LinebackerUW's Mason Foster (12.5 tackles per game) is the top tackler in the Pac-10, and is moving up NFL Draft boards with each passing day. He is the difference between two pretty staunch and evenly-matched units.EDGE: Huskies.
SecondaryBoth teams have noted the Cougars have a star-in-the-making in strong safety Deone Bucannon, whose physical nature for a true freshman is astounding. UW’s Desmond Trufant has had a down year at cornerback, but is still the top cover man in this game.EDGE: Even.
Special teamsNeither team has much of a return game. Both have struggled covering kicks and punts. The revelation has been UW punter Kiel Rasp, a walk-on who was once thought of as a potential weakness. Now he and his 43.9-yard average is a strength.EDGE: Huskies.
IntangiblesIt’s cold, icy and snowy – it must an Apple Cup in Pullman. That figures to benefit the hometown Cougars overall, but could limit Tuel’s playmaking effectiveness if the WSU running game can’t get going.EDGE: Even.
The News Tribune pickFor all the factors in WSU’s favor – thorough beating of Oregon State, three weeks off to rest and homefield advantage – the Huskies have the biggest carrot in this matchup, and that is going for a bowl. That should be motivation enough.WINNER: Huskies, 27-19.
PRIME NUMBERSWashingtonNo. Name (position) Ht./Wt. Year01 Chris Polk (RB) 5-11/214 SophomoreThis thought crossed anyone’s mind – could be his final regular-season game?08 Nate Williams (SS) 6-0/215 SeniorIf O’Dea grad has one weakness, it’s biting on fakes of mobile quarterbacks.10 Jake Locker (QB) 6-3/230 SeniorIf UW sticks to recent game plan, he might manage until game’s critical juncture.28 Quinton Richardson (CB) 6-0/200 JuniorBig test facing Marquess Wilson; we’ll see if recent resurgence is for real.75 Erik Kohler (LT) 6-5/306 FreshmanIf he plays there, it will mark the fourth position on the line he’s been at.
Washington StateNo. Name (position) Ht./Wt. Year10 Jeff Tuel (QB) 6-3/214 SophomoreAnother former No. 10 (Alex Brink) feasted in Apple Cups; will he in debut?12 C.J. Mizell (MLB) 6-2/225 FreshmanReminds many of ASU’s Vontaze Burfict – physical, fast and volatile.76 Micah Hannam (RT) 6-4/283 SeniorHad streak of 43 consecutive starts snapped three weeks ago at Arizona.84 Jared Karstetter (WR) 6-4/208 JuniorBig, sturdy and reliable – this Spokane product is built for snowy settings.93 Kevin Kooyman (DE) 6-6/262 SeniorOnly player on either side to play in 2006 Apple Cup; never faced Jake Locker.