The University of Washington and Washington State football teams have one more weekend before they face each other in the annual Apple Cup game.
This year, it's being played at Husky Stadium in Seattle on Friday, Nov. 29, at 1 p.m. As KNKX sports commentator Art Thiel told Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick: what a difference a year makes!
'JUST THE APPLE CUP'
"It's a big disappointment from a year ago when both teams had double-digit wins...and the potential Pac-12 championship. None of that's at stake now," Thiel said.
"If the Huskies win against Colorado when they play in Boulder Saturday, they'll be 7-4. And if the Cougars win at home against Oregon State, they'll be 6-5. That, to me, is the acme of mediocrity.
"So, there's no Pac-12 championship, no North Division. It's just going to be the Apple Cup."
"Even though the preseason speculation was that each team could win eight, nine, 10 games, they each had a big setback in September that sort of foretold what was happening," Thiel continued.
"The Huskies' second game of the season was a conference game against Cal. It started at 8 p.m. and it was delayed by two and a half hours by a lightning storm that potentially threatened to injure fans.
"They were off the field for a long time, came back to it, most of the house had gone home and the Huskies lost 20-19 to Cal. I think that lingered long in the Huskies' psychology. It was just a bad loss that early.
"Two weeks later, the Cougars had a disaster of their own. They were ahead by 32 points over UCLA and lost. They wound up losing 67-63, one of the great debacle losses of the (coach) Mike Leach tenure in Pullman.
"They wound up having a three-game losing streak off of that. Again, damage was done. I think the Cougars are finally recovering. They looked pretty good last week against Stanford, winning 49-22, but that was a serious blow to the Cougars."
PAC-12 MAY STILL REPRESENT
Thiel said there still may be good news for fans of the Pac-12 in general.
"There are at least two teams that are reputable. Utah and Oregon are going to meet for the championship. The aspiration for Pac-12 fans is that one of them will be selected to represent the conference in the College Football Playoff, the four-game affair, that they have been absent from for a few years.
"The problem with that is the Pac-12 gets labeled as a backwater conference among the Power Five (conferences) and that sort of damages recruiting."
APPLE CUP PREDICTION
But back to the Apple Cup. Who does Thiel think will win?
"The Huskies have won six in a row over the Cougars and I don't see anything changing. Primarily beacuse Mike Leach's offensive system, the air raid, is good until it isn't. He has no adjustment if defenses like Washington's manage to stifle the attack.
"So, I don't see anything changes this year. I'm looking at Huskies 28, Cougars 17 unless a miracle happens and another thunderstorm shows up and disrupts everything."