Washington at Washington State (-3)
Fri. 11/23, 8:30 p.m. ET
Three things you need to know before betting on Washington-Washington State:
1. Since Chris Petersen took over as Washington head coach prior to the 2014 season, Washington is a perfect 4-0 in the Apple Cup, covering the spread in all four of those wins. But Mike Leach has to be feeling good about ending that streak this season. Washington State enters this game at 10-1 both straight up and against the spread on the year, while Washington is just 8-3 straight up and 2-9 against the spread. Those ATS records say a lot about a team and, in Washington’s case, it shows that the Huskies might not be as good as people expected this year. They don’t play up to their competition, but do play down when facing inferior opponents. Washington State is 6-0 against the spread after playing a game where 80 total points or more were scored since the start of the 2016 season, and is 7-0 against the spread after scoring 24 points or more in the first half of their previous game since the start of last season.
2. Washington has the nation’s 30th-ranked passing defense, but this Huskies team hasn’t seen anything like Wazzu quarterback Gardner Minshew. On the season, the senior has thrown for 4,325 yards with 36 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. In a 69-28 victory over Arizona last week, Minshew completed 43 of 55 passes for 473 yards with seven touchdowns. It was his eighth game with three or more touchdowns this season, and it’s hard to imagine him not throwing for at least a couple against Washington here. The senior’s only sluggish performance this year came against Cal, in which he missed a few key throws, but he still threw for 334 yards in that game. Don’t expect him to miss many throws against Washington, as the senior will be looking to show out in the final home game of his college career. A win over the Huskies would also mean that this Cougars team stays alive in the College Football Playoff hunt. A surprise Heisman candidate, Minshew knows that now is not the time to slow down.
3. One might assume that State’s defense falls far short of its offense, but it’s actually quite solid. On the season, the team is allowing just 22.6 points per game—the 39th-best mark in the nation. More specifically, the Cougars have the 46th-ranked passing defense in the country and the 26th-ranked rushing defense. What that means is that Washington might have trouble keeping up with Washington State. For starters, the Cougars seem well equipped to hold star running back Myles Gaskin in check. Gaskin has rushed for over 100 yards in each of his past two contests, but he has five games with less than 100 yards on the year. A few of those were against teams with good rushing defenses, but only one of those (Cal) has been better than Washington State’s this year. And if the Huskies running game struggles, then quarterback Jack Browning is going to struggle as well. The senior has underwhelmed as a playmaker, and he doesn’t seem to be capable of winning a game himself. It’s more likely that the Cougars force him to make a few mistakes here.
Pick: Washington State (-3)
Confidence Level: High (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)