FACTS & STATS: Site: Martin Stadium (33,522) -- Pullman, Washington. Television: Fox. Home Record: Washington 5-1, Washington State 1-4. Away Record: Washington 2-3, Washington State 1-5. Neutral Record: Washington 0-0, Washington State 0-0. Conference Record: Washington 5-3, Washington State 0-8. Series Record: Washington leads, 67-31-6.
GAME NOTES: In a weekend filled with rivalry games, the Washington Huskies will be involved in one of their own when they head to Martin Stadium to battle Washington State for the Apple Cup.
Riding the momentum of a four-game winning streak, Washington will be trying to earn its eighth win overall this season in this contest which would be its largest win total since 2001 when the squad went 8-4. With its 7-4 overall record before the game Washington is bowl eligible for the third straight season and the and the third time in four years under head coach Steve Sarkisian. Although not ranked in the top 25, Washington is currently No. 25 in the BCS standings.
Success has not been a word that would be tossed around Pullman entering Friday's game. In Mike Leach's first season at the helm the Cougars are 2-9 overall and winless in eight chances against PAc-12 competition. In fact with losses in eight straight games, the Cougars have not been in the win column since the middle of September.
Leach may be able to wash away some of the dirt of the poor campaign with a win against the instate rival Huskies. In a rivalry series that dates back to 1900 it is the Huskies that have led the all-time series 67-31-6 including wins in three straight.
It took awhile but Keith Price finally looked like the quarterback that threw for more than 3,000 yards and 33 touchdowns last season. Price completed 22- of-29 pass attempts for 248 yards and five touchdowns, which tied a school record, in last weekend's 38-3 win over Colorado. On the season Price has now put up solid numbers, completing 62.1 percent of his passes for 2,290 yards and 16 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Price has relied almost exclusively on throws to wide receiver Kasen Williams and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Williams (63 receptions, 700 yards, 6 TDs) leads the team in receptions and touchdowns, while Seferian-Jenkins (58 receptions, 751 yards, 5 TDs) is the leader in yards. No other player has more than 200 yards receiving and running back Bishop Sankey (27 receptions, 175 yards) is the only player with more than 20 receptions.
Sankey's real contributions have come in the running game though. The sophomore running back has done a stellar job of replacing Jesse Callier, who was slotted as the started but was injured in early September. Sankey has rushed for 1,150 yards and 13 touchdowns while taking on the bulk of the Huskies' carries (233). He is one of five rushers in the Pac-12 to have tallied 1,000 or more yards at this point in the season.
Even with the level of skill on the roster offensively, Washington hasn't exactly set the world on fire on that side of the ball. Overall the Huskies are ranked ninth in the conference in scoring (23.5 ppg) and 10th in total offense (354.7 ypg).
Three defensive injuries could cause issues for Washington this weekend. Linebackers Princeton Fuimaono and Nate Fellner are both questionable for Friday's game with undisclosed issues, while Desmond Trufant's hamstring injury has him listed as questionable as well. Trufant is the real loss as he has recorded 30 tackles, 4.5 TFLs and broken up five passes. John Timu will still be anchoring the linebacking corps (65 tackles) as the squad's leading tackler. The secondary has strength beyond Trufant with players like Sean Parker (61 tackles, 2 INTs), Shaq Thompson (58 tackles, 7.5 TFLs, 3 INTS) and Marcus Peters (3 INTs, 10 passes defended).
The Huskies' secondary will need to be sharp against Washington State. Although the Cougars are near the bottom of the conference in total yards, no team in the Pac-12 has been better through the air (328.6 ypg). Leach's Air Raid offense has clearly caught on but the Cougars are too one-dimensional. On the season Washington State has had several games with negative rushing totals and is currently ranked last in the entire FBS in rushing yards (30.0 ypg).
Even though the Cougars have had success throwing the ball it has not been because of consistent quarterback play. Both Jeff Tuel and Connor Halliday have battled it out to be the starter this season. Tuel was the starter at the beginning of the season and has had the better numbers in terms of completion percentage (63.8). However, Halliday has been the more productive signal caller with 1,878 passing yards and 15 touchdowns, while also leading in interceptions (13).
Last weekend was the first game the Cougars played without start wideout Marquess Wilson who was suspended indefinitely by the team but in a statement released by Wilson himself, claimed to have left the team due to 'abuse' by the Cougar coaching staff. While there has been no resolution to that issue, the Cougars have had to try to find a No. 1 option. Gabe Marks (47 receptions, 547 yards, 2 TDs) is the team's leading receiver with Wilson out while Brett Bartolone (49 receptions, 407 yards, 4 TDs) and Isiah Myers (38 receptions, 391 yard, 4 TDs) have also put up decent numbers.
Teams have had no trouble moving the ball or getting in the end zone against Washington State when it goes on defense. The Cougars are the second to worst to team in the conference in points allowed (34.2 ypg) and just a few slots above that in total defense (439.6 ypg, ninth). If there is a strength of the team, it is in getting into opposing backfields, amassing 85 tackles for loss this season, the fourth most in the Pac-12.
Leading those efforts is Travis Long. The linebacker has recorded 61 tackles overall, with 13 going for loss along with 9.5 sacks. Also getting in on the action is Cyrus Coen (12.0 TFLs, 3.0 sacks), who has also snagged three interceptions. Deone Bucannon has also been a standout performer with a team- high 95 tackles and four interceptions.
This game might be closer than it would seem on paper with rivalry bragging rights on the line, but the Cougars have been too much of a mess this season while the Huskies are picking up the pace at just the right time.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Washington 34, Washington State 24