Ever since I covered my first college football game in the autumn of 1977 I’ve been in love with college football, but there’s a special place in my heart for territorial rivalries every fall. Good records or not, the traditional matchups are the soul of the game.
I can’t explain why but college football rivalries have always been fascinating to me. Here in the Pacific Northwest, the Apple Cup is king and it’s even bigger this year since there’s so much at stake on Nov. 25 at Husky Stadium.
My first Apple Cup was in 1981 when the prize for the winner was a trip to the Rose Bowl.
Jim Walden’s Cougars came into Husky Stadium tied with UCLA on top of the Pac-10, each with records of 5-1-1. The Huskies came into the game at 5-2 and needed a win over the Cougars plus some help from USC in their game against UCLA.
The Cougars hadn’t been to a bowl game in 51 years while the Huskies were trying to get to the Rose Bowl for the second year in a row.
It turned out to be a great day for Husky fans. Washington beat WSU 23-10 and before the game was over fans listening to their radios in the stands found out that UCLA had missed a last-second field goal giving USC a 22-21 victory.
It all started in 1900 when the Huskies and Cougars played to a 5-5 tie. The game wasn’t called the Apple Cup until 1962, prior to that it was known as the Governor’s Trophy.
The Huskies lead the series with 71 victories to 32 for the Cougars and six ties. Washington has won seven of the last eight meetings and 13 of the last 20.
Going into the 2017 version of the game the Cougars are 9-2 and ranked 12th in the nation. Washington is 8-2 while slipping to 18th in the country. The appeal of this great rivalry has always been special even in years when one or both had subpar records.
In 2008, the Huskies stumbled into the Apple Cup with an 0-10 record while the Cougars were 1-10. In a back-and-forth battle the Cougars came out on top on a Nico Grasu field goal.
Whether fighting for a Pac-12 title or looking for a single highlight in a dismal season, the Apple Cup is special and always will be.
As important as the Apple Cup is to us here in the state of Washington, football rivalries flourish in every corner of the nation.
During my four years in Indiana before moving to Washington the Indiana vs. Purdue game was the big one. The Boilermakers and Hoosiers play for the Old Oaken Bucket every season. Not necessarily in order of importance there’s Michigan vs. Ohio State, Army vs. Navy, USC-UCLA, Florida vs. Florida State, The Civil War with Oregon vs. Oregon State, The Great Divide Trophy with Montana State vs. Montana, The Golden Boot pitting Arkansas vs. LSU, The Golden Egg with Mississippi playing Mississippi State, The Paul Bunyan with Michigan playing Michigan State, The Golden Hat with Texas playing Oklahoma and on and on it goes.
Locally the Pacific Lutheran vs. University of Puget Sound game is a big rivalry while back east where I’m from they still flock to the Yale vs. Harvard game every year.
College football rivalries keep the fans interest every fall regardless of how well their favorite team is doing. To me tradition is just as valuable as championships but I’ll admit when a team gets a chance to be part of both all in one game, that’s the best of all worlds.