Sark has referred multiple times to this 2013 team being his most mature and focused. They spent the off-season with signs all around reminding them of how they fell short of their goals last season by losing to WSU and Boise State to end the season, and we've seen the manner in which they took care of business given another shot at the Broncos. I have a feeling that it has not escaped the attention of this team what happened to them last year in Tucson, and that they are ready to deliver some payback.
Arizona has been preparing for this game by playing an out of conference schedule that would make an SEC team blush with shame. Sure, they have an easy 3 wins that gets them halfway to bowl eligibility, and they've been able to break in a new QB in B.J. Denker without breaking a sweat. But when your toughest opponent so far is Texas-San Antonio, you know you are looking at a quantum leap in competition when you head to Husky Stadium. Will RichRod's group be ready?
This will be a major test for Justin Wilcox's defense. The game last year was the worst outing by his group and the worst job of coaching on his part. Fortunately for them Matt Scott will not be behind center, and Denker has yet to show that he's much of a passing threat (though he's not helped in that regard by the massive attrition at WR for the Wildcats). However their zone-read option offense will still present a significant challenge - Danny Shelton and Evan Hudson will need to control the middle of the line, Hau'oli Kikaha and Cory Littleton will need to anchor the ends, and the linebackers will all have to flow quickly and unimpeded to the ball. The good news is Wilcox should feel comfortable leaving his corners in man coverage and bringing Parker into the box to reduce running lanes for Arizona.
On offense, the Huskies will get their first look at a 3-3-5 defense this season, but they got a double-dip last year and should have plenty of film to understand what they're facing. The X-factor here could be the weather - it's supposed to not just be wet, but also very windy (25-35MPH). For old-timers, the weather might resemble the famous 1981 game vs. USC. I expect we'll see a number of turnovers, and longer passes, punts and kicks could be real adventures. The Husky offense may be more limited than they'd like in stretching Arizona vertically, but I still think we have more weapons, and I think we're due to pick up some opponent fumbles. Arizona will not make it easy, but Washington holds serve at home in a sloppy, wet and very windy game: UW 27, Arizona 17
When Arizona has the ball, it is pretty clear that we are going to see a healthy dose of Ka'Deem Carey with a side order of Daniel Jenkins. Carey is built a lot like Chris Polk was and will likely be able to get his yards on us right in between the tackles. While I don't expect the Huskies to have trouble tracking Carey, I expect there to be a lot of missed tackles as Carey gets his yards. I'm also looking for Arizona to test their passing game more than they've shown in the first three games. Denker has not proved that he is a capable passer at any level and I expect that the Wildcats don't yet have a healthy respect for the cover abilities of both Marcus Peters and Greg Ducre. With the weather and the noise affecting his rhythm, I expect we'll see some turnovers go our way. Still, I also expect Denker, aka "Vanilla Vick" (his self-applied moniker) to break contain and generate some big plays with his legs. We'll come out of the game wondering what happened to our pass rush and lamenting missed tackles, but lauding another strong showing from our secondary.
On the flip side, I believe UW will prove to be every bit of Arizona's equal on offense with a better passing game and more success on third (and fourth) down conversions. I'm also expecting fewer turnovers and that's where the game should break open. Last year (when the Huskies actually had the ball), Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Kasen Williams had their way with that small Arizona secondary and I see no reason for this to not be the case again in Seattle. The Huskies should generate big plays and take up chunks of the field in both their run and pass plays. We may come out of the game newly concerned about our kicking game, but the rest of the offense should continue with the momentum established through the first quarter of the season.
Call it UW 38 - UA 27
Bishop Sankey has 150 yards rushing. ASJ shows why he is the best TE in the country. UW 41 Arizona 27
This game is a lot like the Boise State game to me, in that I think it matters much less what Arizona does than what the Huskies do. Arizona will be able to get yards on the ground, and may very well hit a few plays in the air, but as long as the Huskies block, throw, catch, run, and tackle like they have been so far, Arizona is too one-dimensional to do enough to stay with the Huskies all game. Sankey and the running game should approach another 300 yard day, and Price should be able to continue to find open receivers. Arizona will bring pressure from odd places, and they may get to Price a time or two, but I also think Price will make them pay at least that often with a big play through the air. The wildcard is turnovers; if Arizona is +2 or more, they have a real shot. As long as the Huskies take care of the ball, and generate a takeaway or two of their own, they'll gradually pull away.
A lot of people have referenced last year as a reason to be worried about this game. I think this team is just so much different personality-wise, and in what they look to do offensively, that it's just not a concern I share. It's almost like they've got a new coach. One of the greatest poets of our time said it better than I ever could, so I'll let her words stand on their own:
I'm feeling good from my head to my shoes
Know where I'm going and I know what to do
I've tidied up my point of view
I've got a new attitude
Ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh, oooooooooh
I've got a new attitude
Dawgs up 17-10 at the half, and pull away in the second to win 45-24.