As the Apple Cup approaches this Saturday, my eyes are on the quarterback position for both squads.
For my Cougs, sophomore Jeff Tuel has quietly had a solid year with 15 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a 129.50 quarterback rating.
As for the Huskies, senior quarterback Jake Locker has disappointed fans and NFL scouts alike, with 15 touchdowns, eight interceptions and a 124.17 QB rating.
What I truly believe is that my Cougars will win this game if they can contain Locker.
This is not a task that is unachievable, and the teams that have beaten the Dawgs this season have done so by containing Locker. The season has played out very poorly for the Huskies, who should have known that they still have a lot of rebuilding to do before they can be a powerhouse in the Pac-10 again (soon to be Pac-12).
Currently, they sit at 5-6, and must beat the Cougs on Saturday to contend for a bowl game. However, if Tuel has anything to say, he'll spoil Locker's last game in the purple and gold.
When you think about Locker's numbers this season, they are not as poor as I seem to make them out to be. However, Locker has had some games where he just flat out looks like he doesn't belong on the field and others where he looks like the stud he is supposed to be.
One game that stands out this season was a performance against the Nebraska Cornhuskers when he completed 4-20 passes for 71 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. This was his worst of the season, but in a performance against USC, Locker threw for 310 yards with a touchdown and even had 110 yards on the ground.
Which Locker will you see Saturday? That is yet to be determined.
For my Cougs, the win against Oregon State on November 13 was overdue for a season of falling short against other Pac-10 rivals. What was great about the OSU win was that WSU played good football from the start to the finish—consistency has been the biggest problem for the Cougars the past few seasons.
Not to mention they snapped a 16 game Pac-10 losing streak, dating back to last season. In order to compete with the Huskies (whether or not Locker plays well or not), the game will be in the hands of Tuel.
Tuel has been impressive this season, despite the 2-9 record. He has been helped by his receiving core, with freshman Marquess Wilson leading the way with 968 yards and five touchdowns. Additionally, Tuel should look for senior receiver Jared Karstetter, who leads Cougar receivers with six touchdowns and at 6'4" is a popular target.
I expect my Cougars to pass, pass and then pass because of how poor the UW secondary is. However, I still expect to see sophomore running back Logwone Mitz provide a spark, plus the underperforming senior James Montgomery will look to go out strong in his last collegiate game.
All I know is I cannot wait to see this Apple Cup in action, and hopefully see some snow flurries that could bring back memories of the “Snow Bowl” of 1992.
Let's see how Locker handles the pressure (which hasn't always been his strong point) in what I expect to be his last game.
I think that Tuel and his receivers will step up and a week-by-week improving Cougar defense will make plays to stop Locker and the Huskies strong running game.
My final score prediction is 21-14 Cougs this Saturday.
They will bring back the trophy to Pullman, where it belongs.