This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The contestants in Friday's Apple Cup football rivalry game have come a long way since 2008, when Washington and Washington State were a combined 1-20 entering the annual contest.
The Huskies and Cougars now are 18-4 overall, with each team standing 7-1 in Pac-12 play and the winner representing the North in next week's conference championship game at Santa Clara, Calif.
Equally remarkable, in different ways, are the altered states of the programs involved in two other rivalry games this weekend. Only two years ago, Arizona and Arizona State each stood 9-2 going into the Territorial Cup, which Arizona won 42-35 on the way to the Fiesta Bowl. The teams are a combined 7-15, with the most recent victory for either school coming Oct. 8 when ASU edged UCLA.
Oregon and Oregon State at least can say they won last weekend. Yet the Ducks and Beavers are also a combined 7-15, only four years after they went into the Civil War with AP Top 25 rankings.
In the cases of all three traditional rivalries, the biggest surprise is the convergence of how both teams have become either good or bad at the same time. And whether the Utah-Colorado series is classified as a genuine rivalry and Utah coach Kyle Whittingham says otherwise, because there's "no bad blood" between them the Utes and Buffaloes also are on a similar level this season.
The result should be good competition this weekend. That's the lesson of '08, when Washington and Washington State were so bad that they staged a great game. WSU's 16-13 double-overtime victory in Pullman completed the Cougars' 2-10 season under former coach Paul Wulff and the Huskies finished 0-12 under Tyrone Willingham.
Eight years later, Washington is battling for a College Football Playoff berth and WSU has a shot at the Pac-12 title and a Rose Bowl bid. The matchup of quarterbacks Jake Browning of the Huskies and Luke Falk of the Cougars should be fascinating. WSU coach Mike Leach describes them as "similar from the neck up," in their abilities to manage an offense and move the ball.
Even with a five-game losing streak, Arizona State (5-6) is playing for bowl eligibility against Arizona (2-9). These teams were mutually this bad in 2003, when ASU won 28-7.
Oregon and Oregon State were a combined 3-17 going into their 1991 meeting. The previously winless Beavers stunned Oregon, 14-3.
Weakness vs. weakness
Every other year, when USC hosts Notre Dame in a regular-season finale, UCLA closes the schedule against an opponent other than the rival Trojans. That's often California, because Stanford has a similar arrangement with Notre Dame.
This week's Cal-UCLA game presents an interesting matchup, for the wrong reasons. Cal's rushing defense is the second-worst in the country, allowing 290.1 yards. But can UCLA exploit it? The Bruins average only 84.3 yards on the ground, ranking next to last.
"We always want to run the ball, but it's been a struggle," said UCLA coach Jim Mora.
The Pac-12 claims three of the five finalists for the Polynesian College Football Player of the Year award: Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau, Utah defensive lineman Lowell Lotulelei and USC receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (the others are BYU safety Kai Nacua and Louisville tight end Cole Hikutini).
Smith-Schuster, whose mother is Samoan, was among four finalists from the Pac-12 last year when Notre Dame offensive lineman Ronnie Stanley won the award.
Twitter: @tribkurt Pac-12 Power Rankings
1 • Washington (10-1)
Huskies have 10 wins for the first time since 2000
2 • Colorado (9-2)
Buffaloes are the ninth Pac-12 team to make AP Top 10 in past three seasons
3 • USC (8-3)
Trojan offense the controlled ball for nearly 44 minutes vs. UCLA
4 • Utah (8-3)
Utes are 4-11 in past five Novembers vs. teams other than Colorado
5 • Washington State (8-3)
Logan's Luke Falk: 87 career touchdown passes, three shy of school record
6 • Stanford (8-3)
Christian McCaffrey: 807 rushing yards in last four games, and here comes Rice
7 • Oregon (4-7)
Ducks have eight-game winning streak in Civil War vs. OSU
8 • Arizona State (5-6)
Zane Gonzalez: 7 of 8 in field-goal attempts from 50-plus yards
9 • Oregon State (3-8)
Marcus McMaryion: Former third-string QB went 16 of 19 for 265 yards and five touchdowns vs. Arizona
10 • UCLA (4-7)
No Bruin has been a Pac-12 player of the week this season
11 • California (4-7)
Cal coach Sonny Dykes has not beaten a California school in Pac-12 play
12 • Arizona (2-9)
Wildcats' offense is last in scoring (21.9) in conference