Commentary: The pressure in this Apple Cup is squarely on Mike Leach

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 21: Head coach Mike Leach of the Washington State Cougars looks on trailing 39-36 to the USC Trojans during the fourth quarter at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on September 21, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

This being Apple Cup week, I don’t need to remind everyone how this game has gone the last five years. But I will anyway.

27-17 Huskies.
31-13 Huskies.
45-10 Huskies.
45-17 Huskies.
41-14 Huskies.

I don’t think there’s any question that, given such low preseason expectations, Mike Leach should be a considered for Pac-12 and National Coach of the Year.

But given the results just listed, I also don’t think there’s anyone with more pressure to win Apple Cup than Leach himself.

For as exciting and unexpected this year has been for the Cougs, you can’t dismiss the fact that they’ve laid the worst of eggs in their biggest game of the season the last few years, losing by an average of 30 points. And given their consistent success (remember, they’re 36-14 over the last four seasons), there’s really no excuse.

And as much as Leach wants to dismiss it as just another game, losing rivalry games that badly and consistently is a total reflection on him.

Now, I get it: For Coug fans, this year has been incredibly fun. Nothing is going to take away from the memories made or the surprising success. But they still have everything to play for and everything to prove. And it’s Leach’s job to prepare this group better than he has throughout his tenure in Pullman.

Because if they’re dominated again in this game – with a conference title and Rose Bowl berth still within reach – at home, with a quarterback that just set a school record last night with seven touchdown passes in a single game – then something is wrong.

I understand the Huskies have one of the best secondaries in the conference, if not the country. We know the Dawgs historically have matched up well in this game. But the eye test this season tells me that these are two pretty even teams that should provide one heck of a slugfest on Friday. And the onus is on Leach to make sure that’s the case.

So many people have been asking how long it’s been since we’ve had an Apple Cup this big, when the answer is just two years ago when a berth in the Pac-12 Title Game was on the line for both teams.

The reason is probably because that game two years ago was so thoroughly unmemorable.

So I’ll go out on a limb and predict that this is the year that we’ll finally see the competitive Apple Cup we’ve all been waiting for: The Apple Cup that comes down to the wire – the Apple Cup that provides a magical moment we’ll remember for years to come.

With everything to play for, that’s the way it should be – yet the way it hasn’t been.

It’s time for Mike Leach to have his team ready to give everyone the game we all deserve to see.