Well, here we are again. For the third time in five years, the Cougars come into the Apple Cup winless in conference play and hoping to upset the Huskies to find some kind of salvage for a horrible season. The problem for the Cougars this time though, is that while the Huskies have really progressed since those miserable Apple Cups that stretched from 2004 to 2009 where both teams really didn't have much to play for, the Cougars have almost regressed in their first year under Mike Leach.
From a pure match-up standpoint, it doesn't look good for the Cougars. The Cougars only real hope is to outscore the Huskies with their spread passing game, but that should be very difficult with Washington having one of the best passing defenses in the Pac-12. To pile on, the Huskies only real vulnerability on defense, their inability to pressure the quarterback, will probably be greatly aided by the Cougars completely lack of pass protection.
The Cougars best chance to make it a game might reside on the other side of the ball though as the Huskies have one of the least dynamic offenses in the Pac-12. While the Huskies do have a decent running game led by Cougar turncoat Bishop Sankey, their lack of big play ability, gives the Cougars a shot to limit their scoring and hope that they can get a few big plays on offense or through turnovers to make a game of it. On the flip side of that though, the Huskies ball control style offense combined with their tough defense has the potential to really limit the amount of time the Cougars spread offense has the ball and shorten the game, which is to the advantage of the Huskies.
The biggest key to the game for the Cougars though may be how they come out of the gate. No team in the conference (other than the Cougars possibly) come out of the gate slower than the Huskies. If the Cougars can take advantage of a slow waking Husky team and grab the lead early, they have a real shot at being able to hold on for dear life and take the game. The Huskies have started to kind of look like a smaller, less talented version of Stanford, and if you can get a team like that behind early, it will be very hard for them to come back.
But as they always say in good, old fashioned rivalry games, you can usually pretty much throw things like records, stats and match-ups out the window. The Cougars may be 2-9 and the Huskies 7-4, but that just means that the Huskies will probably play tight and the Cougars loose, with nothing to lose. The Cougars real best hope is to catch a little bit of magic in Pullman and the kind of upset win that can salvage a really tough season just a little bit.