College football is again fun to watch throughout the Pacific Northwest.
For the past few years the Washington Huskies and the Washington State Cougars have been, well, pathetic. The annual football game for bragging rights in the Evergreen State, the Apple Cup, was more like the Toilet Bowl.
And what made it even more painful was that our neighbors to the south and east -- the Oregon Ducks and Boise State Broncos -- have been crazy good.
But things started to change in Seattle when Steve Sarkisian took over as head coach of the Husky program in 2009. He seems to get more out of his players and, frankly, is also recruiting better players. This week the Huskies cracked the Top 25 at number 25. That's real progress. The Huskies are 5-1 on the season and 3-0 in conference play.
The Cougars under head coach Paul Wulff have been very disappointing. Many Cougar fans feared the team, which only won two games last season, was in a death spiral.
Well, this season has been encouraging to this point. The Cougs are 3-3, even showing some positive signs in defeat.
Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson, who has coached every team in the Pac-12 Conference and NFL (or, at least, it seems like it), has been most surprised by the success of the UW and WSU football programs.
"I would say Washington and Washington State (are the biggest surprises)," he said. "Both of those teams are playing very well right now as far as what was expected of both teams."
The Huskies have a big game this weekend as they travel to Stanford to play the Cardinal, ranked No. 8 in the BCS. The game is being touted as one of the games to watch this weekend.
Meanwhile, the Cougars will be in Seattle at CenturyLink Field (nee Qwest Field) to play a home game against the Oregon State Beavers. Cougar fans, who admittedly have a high tolerance for mediocrity, have a realistic chance of seeing their team play well and win. The Beavers are 1-5 on the year.
All this could mean this year's Apple Cup -- being played at CenturyLink this season -- could be a well-played football game with bowl game implications.
Go Huskies! Go Cougars!