It's Apple Cup week and the Washington Huskies have a lot on the line. The Huskies are on the cusp of a bowl game after rising from the ashes to win their last two-straight, over UCLA and Cal. At 5-6, Washington needs one more win to jump back into a bowl for the first time since 2002.
Standing in the way is a revitalized Washington State Cougar squad. The Cougs have toiled in futility for much of the 2010, but pulled it together to knock-off the Oregon State Beavers in Corvallis the last time they took the field. Since then, Washington State has enjoyed a prolonged break from action, sitting idle with back-to-back bye weeks. It's been three weeks since the Cougs have taken the field, allowing the nicked-up squad to rest and recover.
The stakes for each side are simple. If Washington wins, they're in a bowl game -- and a good one at that. With the Pac-10 in flux and only Oregon and Stanford seperating themselves from the pack, Washington is in-line for either an Alamo or Holiday Bowl berth win a win on Saturday.
For the Cougars, nothing more than pride is on the line. Washington State has a chance to knock the Huskies out of bowl contention, keeping senior quarterback Jake Locker from ever playing a postseason game in his career at Washington. The Cougs are also playing amidst rumors of a coaching change, with speculation surfacing that head coach Paul Wulff may be coaching for his job on Saturday. Will a win be enough to get the third-year head man another season at the helm?
The Huskies have plenty of momentum heading into Pullman. Washington knocked-off Cal last week on the final play of the game, a Chris Polk one-yard touchdown to propel the Huskies to a 16-13 win over the Bears. Polk and freshman Jesse Callier have been a steady presence in the Washington backfield, but have turned it on as the season draws to a close, putting up solid numbers on the ground to take the pressure off Locker in the offense. With the weather in Pullman frightful -- and freezing temperatures forecast -- the Apple Cup may be won or lost in the trenches.
Washington State quarterback Jeff Tuel has been impressive this year, progressing nicely at the helm of the Cougar offense. Against Oregon State, Tuel willed the team to victory, making plays with his feet as well as through the air. It was a different kind of Cougar offense against the Beavers, with a grind-it-out ground game taking center-stage instead of the usual aerial spread attack. If the Cougars can pick up where they left off in Corvallis, it bodes well for the inconsistent Washington State squad.
Tuel and the Cougars host Locker and the Huskies in snowy Pullman, Washington Saturday at 4 p.m. on Versus.