Each season for the Apple Cup, we put together an expanded gameday box with a position-by-position breakdown. That will also serve as our prediction post this week, with the final score at the end.
Washington (7-5, 3-5 in Pac-12) at Washington State (3-8, 2-6)
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Martin Stadium
The line: UW by 3.5
TV: FOX Sports 1
Radio: 1000 AM/97.7 FM (UW); 710 AM (WSU)
QUARTERBACK: Had Connor Halliday not been injured, this would be an easy call. But redshirt freshman Luke Falk, who started WSU’s last two games after Halliday broke his leg, has proved a capable replacement. He won Pac-12 offensive player of the week honors in his first start, and threw for 601 yards in a loss to Arizona State last week … with four interceptions and a lost fumble. Cyler Miles, meanwhile, hasn’t been nearly as productive, but is completing 67.1 percent of his passes and has thrown 14 touchdowns and just two interceptions. And he’s played his best in UW’s last two games. Still, Falk looks like the more talented passer of the two, even if he’s less experienced. THE EDGE: WSU.
RUNNING BACKS: WSU's Jamal Morrow set a school record for most receptions by a running back this season. He has 61 catches for 460 yards, plus 346 yards rushing on 85 carries. Gerard Wicks is next on the depth with 57 carries for 212 yards. UW tailback Dwayne Washington is coming off consecutive 100-yard games, and has established himself as the Huskies’ top running back (520 yards and 5.0 YPC) after a season of tumult at that position. Add in Lavon Coleman (who actually leads the team with 538 yards) and Deontae Cooper in supporting roles, and the Huskies seem to be a little better stocked here, though it’s admittedly hard to judge given how differently these players are used in their respective offensive systems. THE EDGE: UW.
RECEIVERS: No question about this one. The Huskies’ leading receiver is Jaydon Mickens, who has 48 catches for 484 yards, and the Cougars are on the verge of having two receivers finish the season with more than 1,000 yards (Vince Mayle is already well past that mark, and Isiah Myers is 94 yards away). WSU also has eight receivers with 20 or more catches and 300 or more yards receiving. THE EDGE: WSU.
OFFENSIVE LINE: WSU ranks 110th nationally in sacks allowed with 32, though that number is obviously a little inflated due to the number of pass attempts the Cougars total each game -- the math comes out to one sack allowed per 22.5 pass attempts. The Huskies have allowed 25 sacks in 12 games, but they throw the ball a heck of a lot less and allow a sack every 13 or so attempts. And their run-blocking has been so-so for much of the season – though much better the last two weeks against Arizona and Oregon State. This is a tough call, but WSU has held up pretty well with all those pass attempts, so we'll go with the Cougars. THE EDGE: WSU.
DEFENSIVE LINE: This is a big, veteran group for the Cougars, anchored by Tacoma native Xavier Cooper and 2012 Apple Cup hero Toni Pole. But few defensive lines in the country would be given the edge over Washington’s, which features Danny Shelton -- perhaps the best nose tackle in the country -- and two players with 10 or more sacks (Hau’oli Kikaha has 17.5 and Andrew Hudson has 10). The matchup of UW's d-line against WSU's offensive front could be the most important in the game. THE EDGE: UW.
LINEBACKERS: Everyone knows what kind of players John Timu and Shaq Thompson are, and junior Travis Feeney has been a big contributor lately as well. Cory Littleton and Scott Lawyer add depth. WSU’s starting trio of Cyrus Coen, Peyton Pelluer and Jeremiah Allison (plus buck linebacker Kache Palacio) aren’t quite as athletic or productive, though each has had their moments. THE EDGE: UW.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: This area is the biggest weakness for each team. UW starts two true freshmen and two true sophomores, including John Ross III, who played receiver more than half of the season before switching to defense. The Cougars start a true freshman, a redshirt freshman, a sophomore and a junior. Daquawn Brown, a cornerback, is WSU’s best defensive back. But the Huskies have more speed, and while their pass defense numbers aren’t great (78th nationally in yards per attempt allowed), WSU’s are even worse (120th in YPA allowed). THE EDGE: UW.
SPECIAL TEAMS: No debate here. Ross has a kickoff return for a touchdown, Dante Pettis has a punt return for a touchdown, Cameron Van Winkle leads the Pac-12 in field-goal accuracy and the Huskies haven’t allowed a special-teams score this year. WSU has allowed six – three kickoffs and three punts – which is more than any other team, and hasn't scored any itself. The Cougars' coverage units have been so bad that special-teams coordinator Eric Russell was fired midseason. And Cougar kickers are a combined 11-of-17 on field goals. The Huskies win this category in all areas. THE EDGE: UW.
INTANGIBLES: You could argue that neither team really has anything tangible on the line in this game, aside from maybe UW’s bowl positioning. But the Huskies are already eligible for the postseason and the Cougars were eliminated long ago. WSU needs a big win to feel good about itself heading into the offseason, and the Huskies would like to head into their bowl game on a two-game winning streak – and keep alive their chances of winning nine games this year. Keep an eye on the weather. Sub-freezing temperatures are expected at kickoff, and snow is possible.
THE PICK: Washington is more talented, but WSU always seems to bring a little extra when playing the Huskies in Pullman. The Cougars should be able to throw the ball with decent success, so UW will have to limit big plays and make WSU execute in the red zone. It’ll go down to the wire, but here's a guess the Huskies leave with a win. Washington 35, Washington State 28.
Christian Caple can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @ChristianCaple