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Three keys: Apple Cup edition

The Cougs and Huskies face off at 1 p.m. on Friday. How Wazzu fairs could depend on three statistical categories.

SEATTLE — The Apple Cup is today, so of course we're getting in one last three keys segment for the regular season. We're going to do this a bit differently this time though. 

The Huskies have had a lot of losses this season, and we're going to look into three opponents that beat the Huskies that WSU either stayed close with or beat this season. The three games we're looking at are Cal, Oregon, and Colorado.

GROUND RULES

Here are the three factors we're looking for in each of these games:

  1. Did an opposing running back get over 100 all-purpose yards in the match up?
  2. How many times did the Huskies settle for field goals or go three and out in the game?
  3. How many explosives did the Huskies have in the contest?

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1. RUNNING (AND RECEIVING) ALL OVER THE HUSKIES

Against Cal, Oregon, and Colorado, UW let a running back from the opposing team get at least 100 yards against them in all of the contests.

I'm bringing this point up in particular because Max Borghi is a superior running back compared to the three I'm about to mention.

Cal's Christopher Brown Jr had 80 yards rushing and 30 yards receiving in the Bear's 20-19 win in the second game of the season.

Oregon's Cyrus Habibi-Likio had 81 yards rushing and 15 receiving in Oregon's 35-31 win (Okay, I know it's not quite 100 yards, but he's four yards off, so I'm counting it).

And finally, last week Colorado's Alex Fontenot had 105 yards rushing in the Buffs' 20-14 dub over the Huskies.

Borghi ranks third in the conference in all-purpose yards. The next closest player in this group? Fontenot, who ranks 23rd in the conference. If I'm Mike Leach, I'm using Max Borghi in every possible way today.

2. SETTLING FOR LESS

Let's head to the second factor: How many times did the Huskies settle for field goals or go three-and-out in the game?

UW didn't have a ton of three and outs against Cal, but oh boy did they settle for field goals against the Bears. The Huskies' final three scores were field goals, including one from the four-yard line. If one of those is a touchdown, the Huskies walk away with a win.

Against Oregon, the Huskies didn't settle for field goals as much, except they did on their last scoring drive of the game. That was the difference between winning and losing in the 35-31 affair. The Huskies also tallied four three and outs in that contest.

Against Colorado, UW didn't settle for any field goals, but moving the ball was a huge issue. The Huskies had five three-and-outs. They also had one possession where a penalty made it first down, and they immediately went three and out after. Oh, and they also had a turnover in the red zone in this game.

Washington has struggled this year both in touchdowns in the red zone and third down conversions. They are currently only scoring touchdowns 56% of the time in the red zone. That ranks ninth in the conference. Their third down conversion percentage is worse, as they are only converting on third down 35% of the time. That's dead last in the Pac-12 and 106th in the country. If the Cougs hold firm in the red zone, or hold firm on second down, this could be a good day for them.

3. EXPLOSIVES SITUATION

Onto the third criterion: Explosives.

Out of the three games we're highlighting, the Huskies had the most explosives against Oregon, which makes sense in a high scoring game like that one. UW had six in the contest.

But in the other two games, UW only had two explosives apiece against Cal and Colorado. That's staggering. 

Chris Peterson said at his press conference this week that the Huskies need to stop having 12 to 15 play offensive drives because it takes a lot out of the offense. That means they are going to be gunning for big plays today. 

The Cougs, on the other hand, have been prone to giving up those big plays this season. By my count, they're up to 59 explosives in eight games of Pac-12 play. UW is obviously going to try to exploit that this afternoon.

GAME INFO

UW and WSU kick off at 1 p.m. on Fox on Friday.

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