A winning record is assured, a bowl invitation is secured, and with one more victory the Washington Huskies will finish with an 8-4 record and a chance to win a 9th game before the end of the year. Over the past four years the Huskies have slowly but surely climbed their way back into the upper echelon of the Pac-12 Conference. They need only to go into Pullman and bring the Apple Cup back to Seattle with a solid victory to complete yet another step in their climb back to the top. The Cougars will make it a hard fought game in order to salvage their season but the Huskies should prevail because of their defense, their ability to run the football and because they are solid in the kicking game. Those are three things that the Cougars are obviously lacking and basically some of the reason they haven’t won a conference game and will enter this contest with only two wins over Eastern Washington and UNLV.
Stanford’s stunning victory over the Oregon Ducks suddenly makes Washington’s win over the Cardinal look that much better and there is a chance to finish as the fourth place team in the twelve team conference. Pending the outcome of the ASU/Arizona game, the UCLA/Stanford game, as well as the Civil War in the state of Oregon and even the USC/Notre Dame game, any of a number of combinations wins could send the Dawgs to the Holiday Bowl (Pac-12 #3), the Sun Bowl-12 (Pac#4) or even the Las Vegas Bowl (Pac-12#5). Winning could make the difference for the Huskies in going to one of those bowls or dropping into the Craft Fight Hunger Bowl or the New Mexico Bowl. Whatever the outcome or destination the Huskies will have earned the 15 extra practices that come with going to a bowl game and that alone is critical in terms of your roster development.
The fact that the Huskies only lose a dozen kids of the roughly 100 on their roster is another reason to value these extra practices. Of those twelve seniors, only 5 are starters, meaning that the Huskies will be returning almost everyone next year. The value of winning this game and the bowl game can’t be underestimated in terms of both recruiting and to further show the positive direction of the program.
I personally thought they were still a year away from being a contender at the start of this season and that has essentially been proven correct. They struggled thru a lot of injuries and a three game losing streak, losing badly to the Oregon and Arizona and letting USC out Seattle with a game the Huskies easily could have won. Regardless, this Husky team has survived one of the hardest schedules in America and now must finish it right. A win against the Cougars is the last piece to the puzzle and the 8 wins would represent the most in a season since 2001. The Huskies are finally relevant again and need to finish this climb with a solid win over their cross state rival. Just like last weekend, go on the road and win the games you’re supposed to.
It’s been a long climb back for the Husky program and its fan base and this is a chance for a really good season and to prove they have indeed taken the “next step” as Coach Sarkisian had hoped for this team. Washington is no longer hoping to win games, they are expecting to win games and that is one of the most important things Coach Sarkisian has brought to the program. They expect to go into Pullman and win this game and know they will be given the Cougars best shot but they are the better team and they have a lot to play for.
Nothing can be taken for granted in the Apple Cup and I will always remember my senior year as the Cougar captain when our team went into Husky Stadium for the Apple Cup with only one win and somehow won the game. Our team was in a terrible place with an about to be fired head coach and we somehow beat the Huskies 9-7 when their field goal kicker missed a chip shot field goal right at end. Best for Washington to have this game already decided before the start of the fourth quarter because anything can happen in a close rivalry game.