Washington Huskies (10-1 SU, 5-6 ATS) vs. Washington State Cougars (8-3 SU, 6-5 ATS)
College Football Week 13
Date/Time: Friday, November 25, 2016 at 3:30PM EST
Where: Martin Stadium, Pullman, Washington
TV: Fox Sports 1
By Loot, NCAA Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Betting Odds: WASH -6/WSU +6
Over/Under Total: 64
In the Apple Bowl, in-state rivals Washington and Washington State meet in Pullman with the Pac-12 North at stake. Both 7-1 in conference, the winner of this game goes on to the Pac-12 title game. For Washington, this is as critical as it gets, with the Huskies still having a chance to get into the College Football Playoff if they can win out. On Saturday, they scored a 44-18 win over Arizona State, which followed their only loss of the season the previous week to high-flying USC. Washington State, meanwhile, fell to Colorado, 38-24, on Saturday, in what was their first conference loss of the season. Now two teams that have struggled to make an impact in the Pac-12 in recent years will decide between themselves who goes to the title game.
Washington St. is 8-3 after an 0-2 start. Colorado is another team that rose from the depths this season and losing to them is no disgrace, especially on the road. Even if they had won, they still would have needed to beat the Huskies to get into the Pac-12 championship. Last season, the Huskies battered the Cougars, 45-10. They look to reverse that result this season. The Cougars boast of the nation's 2nd-ranked passing offense, as they average 42.5 points per game. While their run game is sometimes negligible, they are quite adept at stopping the run, though that really didn't show on Saturday, as the Buffaloes ran rampant against this "D."
The WSU offense is once again led by the high-flying quarterback with the big arm, Luke Falk. He has completed 71.4% of his throws this season with a 36/7 touchdown-to-interception rate. The run-game does enough to offer a little versatility and take some pressure off the aerial attack. Jamal Morrow, James Williams, and Gerard Wicks have combined for 21 rushing touchdowns. But the heavy-lifting in this offense is done by Falk and a cast of ball-catchers where 11 guys are in triple digits in receiving yards. Gabe Marks leads the way with 12 touchdowns. But there is a thick cast here of differently-abled receivers and as a composite; they can really do it all. It's the reason they were able to win 8 straight games and go unbeaten in a tough conference until last week's loss to Colorado.
The Cougs' defense perhaps didn't deliver on Saturday, especially with the Buffaloes running wild at times with their ground game. But we suddenly hit a time of the season where weather can figure into the equation and playing in a weathery Boulder is never easy. Getting through this conference unbeaten has been too much to ask even of the best Pac-12 teams in recent seasons, as it just doesn't happen all that often. The Washington State defense has recovered 20 turnovers. Their pass rush is sometimes not very consistent. But for the most part, they've given the offense a chance to take over games. It was working like a charm until last week. Maybe they get a second wind at home on Saturday.
The Huskies had a pretty routine win against Arizona State on Saturday—a nice win following their first loss of the season against a USC team that is playing as well as any team in the country right now. On Saturday, QB Jake Browning was 27-for-44 with 338 yards and 2 TDs, along with two picks. At one point the nation's most efficient passer, Browning has seen a little drop-off in the past few weeks, as he has four picks in his last two games. Still, he has thrown 37 touchdowns on the season and looks to kick it into high-gear as the final stretch of games is now in plain sight.
Browning leads a balanced offense. The Huskies average almost 45 points per game, with big doses of both the run and pass game. On the ground, they feature a two-pronged attack with Myles Gaskin and his 1130 yards, along with Lavon Coleman, who has 653 yards and has been big in spots this season. They have some real nice weapons through the air. John Ross and Dante Pettis have combined for 27 receiving touchdowns, while speedy Chico McClatcher gives defenses more to worry about with his game-changing speed. Ross and Pettis have also contributed big plays on special teams.
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Washington's defense also offers nice balance against the pass and the run, with a solid playmaking dimension that makes it all come together. They have allowed an average of fewer than 18 points a game on the season. No opponent has surpassed 28 points all season. The pass-rush has been mostly consistent and with 26 turnovers, they have made a lot of positive contributions to the overall team effort.
This is a big game with the stakes being really high. Both teams should be hungry after long spells of not doing anything particularly special for years on end. The coaching of Washington State, led by Mike Leach, and the fact that this is in Pullman makes WSU a real threat in this matchup. But from strictly a football point-of-view, Washington appears to be the more complete and thorough team, more capable of accomplishing big things on a national stage. I just see a tight game and like the idea of having 6 points on a team that could win outright.
Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Washington State Cougars plus 6 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today by signing up and betting the "Apple Bowl" at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 100% sign-up bonus!