The Washington State Cougars and Washington Huskies are both expected to win their football games this weekend against Arizona and Oregon State, respectively. The Cougars and Huskies are in first and second place in the Pac-12's North Division.
That means a lot is riding on next week's Apple Cup matchup between the two teams. It's the topic of this week's conversation between KNKX sports commentator Art Thiel and Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick.
"This is a remarkable season throughout the entire Pac-12 Conference," Thiel said. "A lot of people expected Washington (7-3) to be here. They didn't expect them to be here with two conference losses, but nobody expected the Cougars to be a part of the action."
Next Friday's Apple Cup, if both teams win this weekend, will decide the North Division champion that will go on to compete in the Pac-12 title game, Thiel added.
"I think the North Division winner is going to be a heavy favorite to win the Pac-12 championship," Thiel said.
Thiel said it appears to be a magical season for the Cougars.
At the center of all the attention is quarterback Gardner Minshew and his famous mustache. He is having a lot of fun with his fame and he had some fun with head coach Mike Leach after last weekend's win. He put a fake mustache on Leach while the coach was being interviewed by ESPN. And Leach left it on!
Thiel noted that one of the commentators said, "Nobody is having more fun at football than the Washington State Cougars ths year."
Thiel said all that fun could translate into an Apple Cup victory and serious consideration for the Cougars to be one of the four teams in the national college football playoffs.
"The Cougars had a very weak non-conference schedule. They were 3-0. The lost only one game (this season), at USC, and that was a controversial loss.
"So they think they've made their case to be strongly considered."
Thiel says he loves chaos — even if coaches don't. "I think this is going to be an astonishing thing if the Cougars manage to win, potentially, their final three games and put themselves in a place for strong consideration.
"I think everybody who's talked to Mike Leach, the pirate, wants to see him in the national final four. And I do, too."