PULLMAN, Wash. – There is more than Apple Cup bragging rights on the line when seventh-ranked Washington State hosts No. 16 Washington in Friday's Pac-12 showdown. The Cougars are ranked No. 8 in the College Football Playoff rankings and need two more victories, some help from opponents and some help from the selection panel to crack the final four.
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Washington State -3
The winner advances to play Utah in the Pac-12 title game, and Huskies coach Chris Petersen knows his defense faces a challenge in Washington State senior quarterback Gardner Minshew II, who leads the nation with 36 touchdown passes. "In terms of his pocket poise and presence, he's got a great feel," Petersen said of the Heisman Trophy candidate in a press conference. "You're going after him, the ball is out. You're not coming after him? He's going to stand in there. You get to him? He's going to get out of the pocket. Really decisive." This is Minshew's one and only taste of the fierce rivalry, and he didn't disappoint when he was asked about his view of the Huskies. "I kind of hate everybody we play," Minshew told reporters. "So I guess I hate them equally - as much as I hate everybody else."
ABOUT WASHINGTON (8-3, 6-2 Pac-12)
The Huskies will try to avoid a shootout with the Cougars behind a stingy defense that allows an average of 16.6 points and has held five opponents to 13 or fewer points. Senior linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven has been superb with 145 tackles - which ranks second nationally - as the only Washington player to record more since 1989 is Mason Foster with 163 in 2010. Senior quarterback Jake Browning has thrown just of 16 of his 94 career touchdowns this season while senior running back Myles Gaskin is just 94 yards away from becoming the 10th FBS player to record four straight 1,000-yard campaigns.
ABOUT WASHINGTON STATE (10-1, 7-1)
The Cougars have won seven consecutive games behind the stellar play of Minshew, the East Carolina transfer who has topped 300 yards a school-record 11 times while passing for 4,325, fourth-most in school history. Minshew fired a school-record seven touchdown passes in last weekend's 69-28 blistering of Arizona as 11 different players caught passes and six had scoring receptions. The defense allows an average of 22.6 points per game and features a force in senior linebacker Peyton Pelluer (team-high 76 tackles) and also is receiving strong play from sophomore linebacker Jahad Woods (68 tackles, four forced fumbles).
1. Washington has won 15 of the last 20 meetings, including a 41-14 romp last season.
2. Browning passed for 242 yards in last weekend's 42-23 win over Oregon State after failing to reach 200 in three straight games.
3. Cougars sophomore WR Tay Martin has recorded four career multi-touchdown performances (two this season, two in 2017).
PREDICTION: Washington State 48, Washington 41