Originally posted on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 8/16/13
Tradition or Power If you live in the northwest then you are treated to some great college football year-in and year-out. Whether you travel to the Palouse to watch the Cougars, to Montlake to catch a Husky game, to Corvallis to see the Beavers in action, or to Autzen Stadium to watch the Ducks, there is no lack of good college football in this region. Obviously, however, each team is not on the same level. Mimicking each other for about an entire decade now, both Washington and Washington State unfortunately saw themselves slink to the bottom of the Pac-10/12. Both having issues securing top recruits during both USC’s outstanding run, the programs fell off their traditional powerhouse track and have struggled to overcome mediocrity. In fact, the last of the two teams to win over seven games in a season was Washington State in 2003, when the Cougars went 10-3 while beating Texas in the Holiday Bowl, 28-20. Oregon and Oregon State, on the other hand, have taken advantage of the down years their northwest competitors have had. Both having outstanding years in the past decade, the Ducks have really risen to become a national powerhouse. Claiming their first Pac-10 Title since 2001 in 2009, Oregon went on to win two more consecutive titles, see themselves appear in a BCS National Championship Game (2011), and win back-to-back BCS Bowl Games in the past two years (2012 Rose Bowl, 2013 Fiesta Bowl). Oregon State, meanwhile, has had an impressive run since their 10-4 season in 2006. Contending for Pac-10/12 Titles in recent years, the Beavers have downed mighty opponents and saw themselves become nationally relevant once again. The Apple Cup has a storied tradition (Seattle Magazine) Clearly the northwest has good football. So when these teams play each other on the field, there is quite the atmosphere surrounding the contests. Though there are quite a few northwest rivalries between the teams, I’m intending to look more at the Apple Cup and the Civil War, two of the well-known rivalries in college football. Both being held as the last game of the season (generally, unless a reschedule occurs like what happened last year to Oregon State), the Apple Cup pits the Cougars against the Huskies while the Civil War sees the Beavers matched up against the Ducks. Each game with its own history, many wonder exactly which one would be the one to tune into if you have the choice. Let’s break it down and decide for ourselves. The Apple Cup The Apple Cup has a storied history of pitting two of college football’s semi-traditional powerhouses against one another in a contest that sometimes decided who the Kings of the Pac-10 would be. Held in either the snow of Martin Stadium in Pullman or the rainy yet beautiful confines of Husky Stadium in Seattle, the game is always played in unique venues that can bring the intensity and the appropriate noise. Players have played in this game who have gone on to have great careers in the NFL, and the Apple Cup is one of those games where either team — regardless of how unevenly matched up they are (I’m looking at you, 2008 Apple Cup) — can come out as victors. However, there’s no doubting the fact that this game hast lost some of its moxie in recent years. Due to the fact that both teams have been either at the bottom of the Pac-10/12 or close to it, it hasn’t had much relevance in the past decade. While it still attracts plenty of viewers in the State of Washington, it’s really hard to make this game look appealing to a national audience. Though that may change in the coming years with the potential resurgence of both programs, the recent string of “Crapple Cups” the Northwest has been given has been displeasing, at best. For the Apple Cup there’s no doubt that it has a great tradition, but recent memory has been leaving college football fans with a sour taste in their mouths when talking about this contest. The Civil War The Civil War is one of the most bitter and exciting rivalries (KVAL) College football’s seventh-oldest rivalry is almost an exact opposite of the Apple Cup. Though it has plenty of tradition in being one of the longest-running rivalries, the Civil War doesn’t have the history of pitting two great college football powerhouses against one another. In fact, for many years this was one of those games where people would laugh at the teams playing on the field. There weren’t any national implications, both teams stunk, and there was absolutely no national interest in the game. That all changed, however, in the past 20 years. Beginning with Oregon’s victory in 1994 to secure their first Rose Bowl berth in 37 years, the Civil War has had national implications in recent seasons that have created an exciting aura around the contest. Pitting two of the top Pac-10/12 programs against one another in the past decade, the Civil War has been building a tradition of helping to decide the eventual victors of the Conference of Champions. Obviously due to each team’s success on the field and in the polls, College Gameday has visited this game, it has been covered by the national media, and it is currently one of the most-watched rivalries in college football. So what we have here, when comparing the Apple Cup and Civil War, is a “contest” between tradition that has been recently lost and current, profound success. It’s tough to decide exactly which game is better (especially since your views will differ based on what state you live in), but if the national media and fan base had a choice, I’d put my money on them watching the Civil War over the Apple Cup. There’s no doubting the fact that the tradition is there in the Apple Cup and that it used to be great, it’s just that the game has been so lackluster in recent years that everybody has essentially forgotten what it used to be. The mediocrity surrounding the contest has begun to define it as one of the more meaningless contests in college football, as both teams have been struggling to reach the .500 mark year-in and year-out for the past decade. In fact, there are many people around the nation who would much rather watch the Oregon Ducks and Washington Huskies play, as they believe that to be the biggest northwest rivalry. So when all things are taken into consideration, there’s really no doubting what game is more “watchable”. The high-flying success of the Ducks and the steady play of the Beavers has made for interesting and exciting games in the past 20 years, games that have decided conference championships and national championship berths.
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