By: Mike Gastineau
The time between kickoff of the Washington State/Cal game on Friday night and the conclusion of the Washington/Arizona State game on Saturday night was, without question, the worst just over a day in the combined history of the Evergreen State’s two Division One college football programs.
For those of you who witnessed both debacles, you’re excused for thinking that my next great assertion might be something along the lines of “water is wet” or “‘Free Bird’ sure has a long guitar solo”.
The Cougars and Huskies entered this past weekend unbeaten and heavily favored to stay that way. They both could fancy themselves as playoff contenders and from a distance this year’s Apple Cup had the look of a game that would be a classic possibly matching two unbeaten teams. That would be remarkable given that just nine years ago the Cougs were 1 and 10 coming into the game and the Dawgs were 0 and 11. That 2008 game was derisively dubbed the “Crapple Cup” by disgruntled fans on both sides of the yearly football fruit dispute.
Watching WSU face plant on Friday night followed immediately by the Huskies chasing their tails on Saturday night was an exercise in frustration and no sane fan needs much more evidence than the games themselves to reach the lamentable conclusion of what was lost for both teams.
Nevertheless, from an odds standpoint, the two games marked a few historic milestones. A friend of mine likes to point out, “There is no yesterday in gambling.” But there are accurate point spread records (courtesy of Covers.com) that date back to 1985. In that time, over 31 years of football, there’s never been a weekend where both the Cougars and Huskies lost despite being double-digit favorites.
Friday’s Cougar loss was even more epic from a gambling point of view. The Cougs were 16 point favorites at kickoff and lost by 34. Thus, they missed covering the spread by 50.5 points which is their largest such number since at least 1985 and is nearly twice as large as the next highest number in the 10 other instances this has happened to WSU.
One caveat here, the Cougs lost to Portland State in 2015 and Eastern Washington in 2016. Some offshore gambling services provide spreads for games between FBS and FCS schools but Las Vegas does not so from a Vegas point of view the Cal game will stand for now as the Cougars’ biggest toe stub ever.
Of very small consolation to UW fans: their loss at ASU isn’t as bad numerically. The Dawgs were favored by 17.5 points and lost by six meaning they missed covering by 24 points which falls in the middle of the 13 times UW has pulled off this dubious feat.
Their worst ever such performance was 35.5 points and came on a dreary 2006 November afternoon at Husky Stadium when they were favored by 18 over Stanford and got run 20 to 3. Fans who were there (not too many of you) may remember the fourth quarter of that game was played in front of MAYBE 3000 fans as most who attended the game had long since fled to the parking lot to drown their sorrows (and their livers) in booze.
It’s worth noting that this scenario of a double-digit favorite losing has happened in just one Apple Cup since 1985. That was, of course, the infamous Snow Bowl in 1992 in Pullman. The Dawgs were favored by 14 that day and lost 42 to 23.
There’s no reason UW and WSU can’t both recover from their combined lost weekend. While not quite as sexy as two 11 and 0 teams, an Apple Cup featuring two 10 and 1 teams would get a lot of attention both here and around the country. The playoffs feel like a long shot but every team in front of them has lots of tough games left and if either UW or WSU can run the table and finish the regular season 12 and 1 (a tall task) things could be interesting around here on December 2nd.
But for now, both fan bases are blue. UW fans had a ton of fun at the expense of the Cougs on Friday night and WSU fans returned the favor on Saturday. Today both fan bases are a little hurt and a little stunned. They’ve got one thing in common:
Misery loves company.