We chatted with Kevin Zimmerman of AZ Desert Swarm in advance of this week's big matchup with the Wildcats. Here are his answers to our questions.
1. Arizona's schedule so far has been pretty light. Have they been able to answer any questions, or is there still a lot up in the air?
Aside from the passing game issues that we'll get to, I think they've been able to answer a lot of questions. It's easy to be worried about the schedule being so easy, but I think the cupcake lineup was good for a team that needed to find itself some confidence and build a new identity. That's especially true defensively. With a lot of returning guys from last season, the defense was not only playing disciplined football but also creating turnovers and even putting some points on the board. That will need to continue if Arizona wants to have success in Pac-12 play.
Also, I think it's been good to see the run game flourish without much variety or help from the passing game. I'm under the impression that against Washington we'll see a much more aggressive set of plays called, but it was promising from an Arizona perspective to see the run game thrive anyway.
2. One of the big strengths for UW over the past couple of years has been their pass defense. Is B.J. Denker talented enough as a passer to stress the Husky secondary?
Let me tell you that every Arizona fan is wondering the same thing. Denker has started four games and won them all, but has never been asked to pass the ball very much or with a lot of verticality. By the eye test, he doesn't have a very strong arm, nor a very accurate one. Rich Rodriguez has been very open that the Wildcats are working on the passing game quite a bit during practices, however. Expect them to sling it about a lot more, but most of the passes will be of the screen variety or quick shots over the middle.
Overall, Denker's strength is in his ability to run the zone-read plays and add some depth to the run game. He's only thrown 55 passes through three games this season so we don't have a lot of evidence to how well he can throw. But he'll have to prove something this week.
3. So far this season, the Husky offense has really hurt teams by attacking them on the perimeter. Does Arizona have the talent to match up with UW's bevy of wideouts?
If there's one part of the defense that hasn't been tested much this season so far, it'd be on the perimeter. The Wildcats are returning the same secondary from a year ago, and if there's any problem they have, it'll probably be with a speedster like Jaydon Mickens. Arizona's corners are physical but they're not necessarily speed burners. Washington's best bet would be to work down the field more than being too liberal with screens passes. I say that because for one, the Wildcats are used to defending screen passes and will have help with their spur safety Tra'Mayne Bondurant on those -- he gets his hands on a surprising amount of those plays. Secondly, the Arizona corners tend to bite on double-moves and things downfield, although this year they've only been beaten badly one time.
Also, Arizona had trouble covering tight ends last year -- Stanford killed them -- so Austin Seferian-Jenkins could be a big key for Washington.
Both guys are drawing a lot of similarities to one another, and I don't think either will have a bad game. I think the tougher load is on Carey to produce, simply because he doesn't have a passing game behind him to loosen up the Huskies defense. Arizona will have to provide some semblance of help in the passing game and also make some plays with read-option and two-back sets to make Washington's defense keep better tabs on Carey's teammates.
5. Who are some of the Arizona players who are standing out that we may not have heard about yet?
On defense, freshman linebacker Scooby Wright has been really impressive so far. He's big, aggressive and has good instincts, and Rodriguez has given him a ton of praise for both his practice performances and for his play in games. He's one of the few new starting pieces on the Arizona defense.
Offensively, Huskies fans could probably get behind backup running back Daniel Jenkins. He planned to transfer to Washington State after last football season and actually went to Pullman for a month -- he wasn't enrolled and didn't join the football team -- and for whatever reason decided to return to Tucson.
And keep an eye out for backup receiver Trey Griffey, who is listed on this week's depth chart as a backup receiver. The son of Ken Griffey Jr. is No. 5.
6. What's your prediction for this game?
It's hard to ignore Washington's wins against Boise State and at Soldier Field. It looks like Keith Price has found himself this season after a rough go last year, and on Arizona's end, there are too many questions in the passing game. I think the Huskies, with their home field advantage, take a fairly competitive game. Call it 35-24, Huskies.