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November 25, 2016

There is one pick today.

Take Washington State +7 spread (buy half a point) against Washington for 3% of the bankroll.

This could arguably be the most important game in the state of Washington this decade. Not only does the perennial Apple Cup give the winners bragging rights, but this year's matchup carries much more weight to it as the winner will get an invite to the Pac-12 Championship game.

The Washington Huskies know that, for them, this game is much more than just bragging rights and Conference Championships. With a victory in this contest, Washington will likely punch their tickets to the College Football playoff and have a chance at a National Title. While that is certainly a motivating goal, it is also one that carries a whole lot of pressure. Pressure to perform can be a tricky thing in sports. When teams simply "want" to achieve a goal so badly, the pressure can get to them and have a negative impact on their game. That could certainly happen in this contest. Motivation is good, however teams often start to change their game plan from doing what it takes to win, to simply playing not to lose. Washington State will certainly be playing to win; however, we are not completely sure about the Huskies.

While everyone has been focused on Chris Petersen and the magical season that his Washington Huskies have been having, across the state Mike Leach's team has had their fair share of magic as well. Since starting the year off 0-2, the Washington State Cougars have been managed to rattle off 8 straight wins before falling short last week against Colorado. A victory in this contest against their in-state rivals will not only (likely) give them a chance to avenge that loss if Colorado claims the Pac-12 South, but also will allow them to play spoiler to Washington's National Title hopes. Washington State is playing on house money here. The Cougars may be ranked, but they’re certainly not the favorite. All the pressure is on Washington to win this game, so the Cougars should be loose and ready to come out firing from the opening kickoff.

For much of the season, Jake Browning had been sensational. There were talks about National Titles and a potential Heisman, however we believe the pressure may be getting to him just a bit. Two games ago, Browning could not get his offense moving against a tough USC defense. The sophomore completed a career-low 47 percent of his passes and threw just one touchdown while being picked off twice in a 26-13 loss. Last weekend was considered a "bounce back performance”, however Browning tossed a pair of interceptions in that contest. Browning may be regressing just a bit in the later stages of the season and if he has another shaky showing in this contest, that could be all it takes for Washington State to pull off the upset.

The USC Trojans laid the blueprint for what it takes to beat this Washington team and we expect Mike Leach to use it. Luke Falk has been one of the best QBs in the country that very few people are talking about. He has been the unquestioned leader of this team and given that 9 receivers on his team have more than 20 receptions this season shows that he has no issues identifying the matchups that he likes while dissecting the secondary. The Cougars are also incredibly difficult to get off the field as they are converting on 48% of their 3rd down opportunities this season (60% on 4th down).

Despite the difference in rankings, these teams are very similar and we don't believe there is much separating them in terms of talent. This is a home game for a Washington State team who hasn't had a ton of success against "big-brother" and now with a chance not only claim bragging rights but also knock them out of the National Title picture, we believe they will rise to the occasion. We fully believe Washington State can win this game outright, however even if they don't Washington will be fortunate to walk off the field with a victory with a late field goal likely being the deciding factor. If that is indeed the case, the points will prove to be valuable.

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