Mike Hlas is an award-winning columnist with the Cedar Rapids Gazette and force behind The Hlog. Each week, he will break down the worst matchup in college football. Considering the increasing number of uncompetitive and uninteresting games, Mike's task is harder than finding calm, sane shoppers on Black Friday.
No team got singled out more than once in the Game of the Weak this season. We spread it from conference to conference, region to region. We're equal-opportunity needlers.
So it is that we wind up 2009 in Seattle, after enjoying some delicious Thanksgiving salmon. Washington State at Washington. The Apple Cup, once a game of national prominence.
This one is slightly less brutal. Last year's was a Game of the Weak of the Decade.
In 2008, the Huskies and Cougars entered their game at Pullman without a win against a I-A team between them. Wazzu scored a 16-13 double-overtime triumph. Someone had to win.
The Cougars went to Hawaii the next week to appropriately close their year with a defeat against the Rainbows as the sun set on a 2-10 season.
Washington, meanwhile, put the rotten icing on its miserable cake by finishing with a 48-7 beatdown of a beating from California for an 0-12 season.
The Huskies fired coach Tyrone Willingham and brought in USC offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. It appears to have been a good move.
Washington is 2-5 in the Pac-10, 3-7 overall. That's not headline-making in Seattle, but it's a start. UW gave LSU a good game early in the season, then shocked USC two weeks later with a win by the same 16-13 score it lost to Wazzu last year. That was huge.
The Huskies have lost their last four games, but the signs of life are still clearly present. Washington may become its former national-power self before too long. Well, it might at least return to bowl games.
Washington State, alas, has problems. The Cougs are 1-10 overall, 0-7 in the Pac-10. Their lone win was at home in overtime against SMU. They've allowed 40 or more points in each of their last five games, and have been outscored by an average of 33 points in those "contests."
Paul Wulff's two-year record at WSU is 3-21. That's not convincing to those who ask if better days are on the Pullman horizon. Incredibly, the Cougars haven't led a game in regulation since Nov. 8, 2008.
"What helps us keep our sanity and sleep well is the improvement we're going to make," Wulff said. "We just know this program is going to jump by leaps and bounds.
"The people that don't know the details, if they knew the details, they wouldn't make the statements they make."
That's probably true of most losing programs. But it's probably a tougher rebuilding job at a place like Washington State.
It isn't Los Angeles or Phoenix or the San Francisco Bay Area or Seattle. Pullman is a lot closer to Moscow (OK, Moscow, Idaho) than any of those Pac-10 urban areas.
And it's true that the Cougars have been racked with injuries this year. Some years, certain teams get clobbered. Oklahoma is one. Washington State is another.
Wulff has a Herculean task to make WSU a winner given the talent that was left to him, and that will take time.
Washington, with its three wins, can sympathize with its state rival after the season it had last year.
"To go winless and to be a part of that messes you up mentally," Washington tight end Kavario Middleton said. "It takes a while to recover out of that."
So for now, Washington State-Washington isn't Arizona-Arizona State, Cal-Stanford, Oregon State-Oregon, or UCLA-USC.
It's still the Apple Cup. But locals will again need their much-used coffee cups to stay awake through it.