SEATTLE — This will be the biggest, most important Apple Cup ever.
That sentence sounds highly subjective. But when you think about what's at stake when the No. 6 Washington Huskies and No. 23 Washington State Cougars (AP rankings) meet for the 109th time, it's hard to argue.
If the Huskies win (7-1 Pac-12, 10-1 overall), they stay alive for a shot at the national championship depending on how other teams fare. At the very least, they remain in the hunt for the Rose Bowl.
The Cougars (7-1, 8-3) can also get to the Rose Bowl with a win Friday and a win in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
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This will be only the 6th time both teams will be ranked when they meet. It's so rare that both teams have something to play for. Usually, one team is playing to improve its bowl possibilities while the other is just trying to save face.
Then you have the really awful years like 2008 when the teams finished with a combined record of 2-23 -- and both wins were owned by the Cougs.
It's the first time in 35 years that a shot at the Rose Bowl — at minimum — will be at stake for the winner. UW won that 1981 game 23-10. But that's back when it was the Pac-10. There was no conference championship game. The winner of Friday's game will have to still beat either USC or Colorado on Dec. 2.
The other games in which both teams were ranked:
— 2001: No. 16 Huskies 26, No. 9 Cougars 14 (UW went to the Holiday Bowl; WSU to the Sun Bowl)
— 1997: No. 11 Cougars 41, No. 17 Huskies 35 (Win sent WSU to rose bowl for the first time in 67 years; UW went to the Aloha Bowl)
— 1972: No. 20 Cougars 27, No. 17 Huskies 10 (There were only 11 bowl games back then. UW and WSU weren't invited to any)
— 1936: No. 6 Huskies 40, No. 20 Cougars 0 (UW went on to the Rose Bowl)
Both the Huskies and Cougars each will be without one of their starting playmakers. UW linebacker Azeem Victor was lost to a broken leg against USC. That same day, WSU lost No. 2 receiver River Cracraft to a torn ACL.
UW suffered another defensive loss when it confirmed backup cornerback Darren Gardenhire left the team. Head coach Chris Petersen described it as a difference in philosophy.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.