This weekend's matchup likely represents the last chance for the Huskies to pick up a win vs. a ranked opponent in 2014, and a fanbase that dreamed of a 10+ win season is getting restless as the team sits at 6-4. With a struggling offense and a defense that is - at best - good, the prospects are not that encouraging. With that said, Arizona is not a well-oiled machine on a par with Oregon, nor are they as athletic and physically talented as UCLA. They run great schemes, particularly on offense, and they have some real skill talent playing behind a veteran line, but they can be beat - provided the Huskies bring their A game and bring it from the opening whistle.
On offense, Coach Petersen has been stressing the need for Cyler Miles to know when to stay in the pocket longer and keep his eyes downfield, but I think this is a game where the Huskies will need his wheels and his ability to pick up yardage on the ground when the pocket breaks down. Brett Hundley had a lot of success running the ball in UCLA's win over the Wildcats, and I think some big scrambles early in the game could cause Arizona to play a bit more conservatively with their pass rush and give Miles a bit more time to look downfield. With Shaq Thompson back to defense and probably looking at no more than 5 carries in this game, it will be critical for one of the RBs to pick up the slack and give Washington a reliable threat running the ball, especially on first downs to keep third downs manageable.
On defense they'll need big games from Hau'oli Kikaha and Danny Shelton to harass Anu Solomon and clog the line of scrimmage. John Timu, Shaq and Travis Feeney and/or Cory Littleton will have to be exceptionally disciplined on the package play/play-action stuff Arizona loves to run, and not miss with open-field tackles. It will be a tough challenge for Sidney Jones, John Ross & Naijiel Hale in the secondary against the big receivers on the Wildcats, and it would be a good time for Budda Baker to get his first interception.
There's no real good reason to pick the Huskies to win this game other than belief in this coaching staff. I don't think we've seen a game yet where Washington played well in all phases (though the Cal game was close), so maybe this is the weekend everything comes together. Arizona isn't a huge favorite, but this would still represent a significant win for the team and this coaching staff. And despite the analytical side of me saying the Wildcats win this by two scores, I'm going with my gut and calling for the upset: Washington 31, Arizona 27
To overcome this talented squad on the road in a venue 1,538 miles away from their home turf, the Huskies will have to play lights-out defensively, and probably register at least one defensive score to stay in the game. That'll be immeasurably difficult against a stingy Arizona defense that has only allowed three points off of turnovers this season. Ultimately, I think this week will just be more fuel for the fire of those fans who are running short of patience for the Husky offense. Arizona 31, Washington 17
Way back when the Huskies were sitting with two losses in the conference and I still had a shot at my preseason prediction of a 6-win run through the Pac 12, this was the one game that I had pegged as the final loss for the Huskies before their bowl game.
My preseason prediction, much like my preseason optimism, has been long retired. Unfortunately, my forecast for this game has changed very little.
There are precious few reasons to be optimistic about the Huskies in this weekend's affair. First of all, the track record of this program in their visits to the desert is hardly something to revel in. Furthermore, the strengths of this Husky team, whatever those may be at this point in the season, do not appear to be major advantages against this rising Arizona program.
I expect that the Huskies defensive front seven will struggle to keep up with Arizona's high-tempo rushing attack as they have against similar teams already this season. With the success that I expect the 'Cats to have on the ground, it isn't hard for me to imagine that big gashing passes from QB Anu Solomon to receivers such Cayleb Jones and Austin Hill will become a reality for the Huskies and their depleted secondary.
On the offensive side, I do expect the Dawgs to have a little more success than we've seen to date if for no other reason than the rushing attack would seem to be something that is starting to click. Still, the 'Zona stack is designed to keep big plays from popping and I expect the Huskies rushers, without Shaq getting lots of reps there, will struggle in breaking tackles and generating YAC. Cyler Miles could have a big game, but I'm guessing that much of his stats will be padding as the Huskies try to keep this one from getting out of hand in the second half.
Sadly, I'm going with the 'Cats in this one. UA 48, UW 31
It's tough to find reasons that point to a possible Husky win here. Arizona has to very large, very talented receivers that are difficult to tackle in space, and will probably dictate the Huskies sitting back in the same sort of zone that Brett Hundley carved up last week. They have a couple of pretty good backs, both of whom are averaging over 5 yards per carry.
Defensively, they're "pretty good," and those stats are skewed by giving up three largely meaningless TD's in the fourth quarter of a blowout win over WSU. Arizona kept Hundley mostly in check, they kept USC from running away after a fast start by the Trojans, and they went in to Eugene and beat a pretty good team on a Thursday night a while ago. Their lone true stinker, against Cal, might actually be the most memorable win of the season for the 'Cats.
But the Huskies are going to win. And they're going to look shockingly dominant in doing it. Why? Because they shouldn't. This is a head coach searching for answers, and a team looking for an identity. There's every reason to expect them to battle gamely, but ultimately fold. But it's not going to go down like that. This is going to be Oregon State from 2013. An out-of-the-blue beat down.
This is the equivalent of me walking up to a roulette wheel with my life savings and putting it on Red 7. But you guys should get on board and throw your money down with me. Dawgs 55, Arizona 4 (that's right, I like the two safeties).