The stakes this time around are dramatically different than in recent years, when one or both of the Apple Cup participants were in the Pac-12 championship chase. Nevertheless, the 112th renewal of this Evergreen State rivalry has plenty on the line in terms of bragging rights.
That was made all the more pronounced after Washington ended Washington State's College Football Playoff and Rose Bowl hopes last year in the snow at Martin Stadium in a game that was preceded by some verbal sparring between Huskies defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake and Washington State head coach Mike Leach.
Memories of 2018 linger as the two sides tangle for bowl position. Both sides come in at 6-5, hoping to finish what can be fairly described as disappointing seasons on a positive note.
Washington State at Washington
Kickoff: Friday, Nov. 29 at 4 p.m. ET
Spread: Washington -7
When Washington State Has the Ball
Washington State was on the wrong side of the most dizzying comeback of the 2019 season, giving up a 35-point lead to UCLA in September. The Cougars achieved some measure of redemption last week when they rallied from two touchdowns down in the final minutes to beat Oregon State and preserve their bowl hopes.
Anthony Gordon, who set a Washington State program record in that UCLA loss with nine touchdown passes, went off for more than 600 yards against the Beavers. The senior has put up huge numbers all season, and he aims to continue that trend against a Huskies defense that has been excellent against the Washington State air raid. However, this Huskies defense has not been quite up to the standard of the Pac-12 title-contending teams under Lake and Pete Kwiatkowski in recent years.
Washington's secondary a season ago was the best in college football, and the only unit to truly shut down Gardner Minshew and the high-powered Cougars. This year's bunch has faced some growing pains, including last week, when they gave up 100 yards to Laviska Shenault in a confounding loss to Colorado.
The Cougars will attack with a variety of pass catchers and sprinkle in the effective rushing attack of Max Borghi. Borghi's presence as both a ball-carrier and receiver from the backfield gives Washington State a dangerous dynamic. The Washington State offensive line is excellent, so generating pressure on Gordon will be a challenge for the Huskies' front.
When Washington Has the Ball
The wildly up-and-down play of the Washington offense has been the story of at least the past two seasons. The Huskies' susceptibility to lulls a season ago played a role in their being denied a shot at the playoff. This season, it's the primary factor in a 6-5 mark that's the program's worst since Chris Petersen's second season (2015).
Replacing Myles Gaskin in the running game has been an issue — Washington is just seventh in the Pac-12 in rushing offense — but more prominent is the inconsistency of the passing game. Georgia transfer Jacob Eason's overall numbers are decent, with 21 touchdowns against eight interceptions. But his play has been mostly flashes of brilliance amid misfires.
Which version of the Huskies offense shows up for the Apple Cup will shape this game. Washington played inspired offensive ball for three quarters against both Oregon and Utah, the Pac-12's top-ranked teams, and led much of the way in those games. The Huskies need a similar effort — and for four quarters, as the Washington State quick-strike attack allows for little letdown on the other side of the ball.
The emotional high of gaining bowl eligibility with a raucous comeback could buoy the Cougars against a Huskies bunch fresh off a highly disappointing and sluggish effort at Colorado. On the other hand, Washington's history of defensive success against Washington State's offense looms large.
It's cliche to call a rivalry matchup anybody's game, but both Washington and Washington State have been so up-and-down in 2019 that pegging either a clear favorite is foolish. This one truly comes down to what version of each team shows up. Until proven otherwise, defaulting to Chris Petersen in this matchup has been the answer.
Prediction: Washington 27, Washington State 24
— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Follow him on Twitter @kensing45.