Apple Cup preview

November 24, 2016

It has been a long time since the Apple Cup between Washington and Washington State had any meaning outside the state. The last time that both teams were ranked entering the state derby was 2001 and the last time both teams had a chance to win the conference championship was 1981. In fact one could make a pretty good case that the 2016 version of the Apple Cup is the biggest game in the 109 year history of the rivalry. For starters, the winner takes the Pac-12 North title and a spot in next weekend’s conference championship against either Colorado or Utah. And this year’s match-up with WSU has even bigger implications for the 6th ranked Washington Huskies who still are very much alive in the chase of one of the 4 national playoff berths.

The Apple Cup could also feature a shootout between two of the best young QBs in the country in Washington sophomore Jake Browning and WSU junior Luke Falk. However, as a true soph, the Huskies’ Browning won’t be draft eligible until 2018 when he figures to be a leading candidate to be the #1 pick overall. NFL teams, though, are really looking forward to seeing WSU’s Falk against the Huskies. Falk hasn’t gotten a ton of respect from pro scouts to date as he has been dogged by the ‘system QB’ label, but he is a very accurate passer with a completion percentage of over 70% this year who reads the field really well and does an excellent job distributing the ball.

Unfortunately, Falk won’t have one of his favorite receivers available as veteran WR River Cracraft is out for the year, but Falk will still have his top target in senior WR Gabe Marks, a fiery possession-receiver who last week became the Pac-12’s all-time leading career receiver, although he is still more of a third day type prospect for the 2017 draft. WSU also has an emerging offensive line candidate in massive OG Cody O’Connell, one of this year’s Outland Trophy finalists. Scouts from3-4 teams will also be taking a long, hard look at WSU senior NT Robert Barber. Barber is a solid run stuffer type who was suspended almost all season for seriously injuring another student in a bar fight back in July, but was just recently granted an injunction to get back on the field.

The best overall prospect in the Apple Cup, though, is Washington junior WR John Ross, who isn’t all that big but he has track speed along with outstanding quickness and agility making his breaks. In fact, nobody should be surprised at all if Ross is ultimately a top 10 pick if he enters the 2017 draft. The Huskies have as many as 4 other underclassmen who could get some first-round consideration this coming April including juniors CB Sidney Jones, FS Budda Baker and 5-tech DE Elijah Qualls, along with redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Vita Vea. Prospects to watch:

WASHINGTON                                                             WASHINGTON STATE

#3 QB Jake Browning, 6-2, 210, SO                                #4 QB Luke Falk, 6-4, 220, JR
#9 RB Myles Gaskins, 5-10, 195, SO                                #2 WR Gabe Marks, 6-0, 195
#1  WR John Ross, 5-11, 190, JR                                     #76 OG Cody O’Connell, 6-7, 355, JR
#11 DE Elijah Qualls, 6-1, 325, JR                                  #58 C Riley Sorenson, 6-3, 330
#50 DE Vita Vea, 6-4, 335, RSO                                     #18 FS Shalom Luani, 6-0, 205
#20 CB Kevin King, 6-2, 195
#26 CB Sidney Jones, 6-0, 185, JR
#32 FS Budda Baker, 5-10, 195, JR