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December 3, 2010

Apple Cup scouting report: Edge goes to Huskies

Scouting report: Washington at Washington State

Kickoff: 4 p.m. Pacific time, Saturday, Martin Stadium, Pullman (Versus TV, 950-AM).

Game day weather forecast: 28 degrees, cloudy but no snow expected.



The records: Washington is 5-6 overall, 4-4 in the Pac-10; Washington State is 2-9 and 1-7.

The line: Huskies by 6.

The series: Washington holds a 65-31-6 lead in the 102-year-old series. The Huskies won last year's game 30-0 in Seattle but lost the 2008 encounter in Pullman, 16-13 in double-overtime. Washington has won eight of the past 12 Apple Cups, but WSU has won two of the past three and four of the past six.

What's at stake: Plenty for Washington. The Huskies can secure their first bowl berth since 2002 with a victory, landing in either the Sun, Alamo or Holiday bowls. The Cougars can save their season and probably coach Paul Wulff's job by beating the Huskies.

Story lines: Winning this game would be the ultimate reward for quarterback Jake Locker and other Husky seniors who endured an 0-12 season in 2008. Locker turned down NFL riches to come back for his senior year to try to lead the Huskies to postseason play. And he's one win away from doing that. …

WSU coach Paul Wulff needs this victory to finish the season strong and build support to return for his fourth season in Pullman. Wulff's record is 5-31 at WSU, including a 2-24 mark in the Pac-10. …

Sweet revenge is on the mind of several Huskies who still remember the grueling 16-13 double-overtime loss the last time they set foot in Pullman in 2008. That loss led to the Huskies' winless season.

What to expect: With Locker still less than his usual self with a mending broken rib and one big hit away from leaving the game, look for the Huskies to try to control the game with a strong ground game from running backs Chris Polk and Jesse Callier. They've had success with that approach in their recent victories over UCLA and Cal and seemed to hurt themselves when they went to the air too often.

WSU's spread offense will be the four distinct offensive look they Huskies will have seen in four games. Look for quarterback Jeff Tuel to try to test a UW defensive secondary early and often, weather permitting. If it snows, which is unlikely, and the game comes down to a running battle, the edge goes heavily to the Huskies, whose improved defensive front play has led to two straight strong performances against run-based offenses.

Key players: This one's about the quarterbacks. Although his passing numbers were better last week against Cal, Locker benefitted from some exceptional catches by his wide receivers for big gains. Unless the Huskies' running game shines bright, Locker will need to have his best game in more than a month through the air.

One disadvantage for Locker Saturday would be if left tackle Senio Kelemete can't play or isn't at full strength. Kelemete, the Huskies' most consistent lineman and 11-game starter, sprained his ankle on the final play against Cal and is considered questionable for the Apple Cup. …

Tuel, who has passed for 2,482 yards and 15 touchdowns with 11 interceptions this season, will go against a UW secondary that has improved immensely in recent weeks, particularly the play of cornerback Quenton Richardson, who had interceptions against UCLA and Cal. If Tuel is sharp, finding his supporting cast of talented receivers, the Cougars' chances rise sharply, especially if Locker struggles. Receivers Jared Karstetter and Marquess Wilson each have more than 50 catches for WSU. …

Notable: Huskies assistant coach Johnny Nansen is a former Cougars linebacker and played under Mike Price at WSU. … WSU's Casey Locker is a back-up redshirt freshman safety, but look for any shots he might have of his cousin, Jake Locker. … UW's Polk needs 46 yards to reach 1,000 yards rushing for the second year in a row.

The pick: The Huskies' will to win is very strong right now. Expect Polk to have another big day. Don't be surprised if there's a missed field goal at the end. Washington 24, Washington State 21.





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