Gabey Lucas (4-2 SU, 3-3 ATS)
I don’t believe in jinxes.
LOL JUST KIDDING who do I look like, Neil deGrasse Tyson coming to explain to you how well actually jinxes aren’t real and blah blah blah ginger?
First, I went “Well UCLA’s 4-0 but they’re clearly not legit four and oh 4-0.” Then I felt like “Well ASU’s just fired their coach and is institutionally deranged and certainly we won’t lose in very silly fashion ~again~, right?” I mean, I still agree with both those assessments, but I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a liiiiiitle spot in the back of my brain going “but UCLA, when things click, is better than they’re bad moments have been” followed by “and ASU is a whole mess but their individuals on the field don’t suck.”
So, we’re gonna try to reverse jinx it this time. Arizona kind of reminds me of the opposite of ASU with a little bit of UCLA thrown in there. I.e. probably less raw talent, but way more solid from the ground up and still some scary talent in places where it only takes one guy to mess you up — obviously, de Laura and Cowing being the headliners.
I will put an asterisk against de Laura’s numbers simply because six of his 15 touchdowns were against Colorado, who plays a game that I think is only technically considered football. Still, when he thrives, he really thrives. When he doesn’t, he’s still a giant pain in the ass to defend. Considering his partnership with Cowing and Washington’s defensive weakness being exactly their strength, I’m gonna commit to the reverse jinx here. Crossing my fingers my personal record suffers from this.
Even if I am right, though, I’m still having fun watching a fun team for the first time in a hot minute.
Washington- 42, Arizona- 45
Andrew Berg (3-3 SU, 3-3 ATS)
No single stat perfectly describes a player or a team, but some are better than others. One of my favorites to review every week is Expected Points Added from CFBGraphs (@statsowar on Twitter). EPA tracks every play and assigns a point value to the yardage result based on the situation for the offense and defense. By that metric, the Dawgs have the #4 offense in the entire country… and the #115 defense. Going a level deeper, the Husky defense ranks 68th against the run and 101st against the pass. Having watched every snap of the season, those numbers echo my impression of the team. The offense is very good and can be elite at times. The run defense isn’t great, but it’s passable, and the pass defense has been maddening.
With those shortcomings in mind, it’s probably not an ideal time to welcome a pass-happy offense led by QB Jayden de Laura and star WR Jacob Cowing to Montlake. If UW couldn’t slow down Arizona St.’s walk-on, backup QB, couldn’t this week be even worse? I’m slightly more optimistic based on some qualitative factors. First, the Husky defense (especially the pass rush) has looked like a different unit at home than away this season. The reappearance of Bralen Trice, ZTF, Jeremiah Martin, and company could buy the secondary precious seconds where to avoid coverage breakdowns. Second, last week felt like an inflection point, both in health and tactics. For the health element, we have to hope that another week helps get more bodies on the field and heal up some of those bodies that were playing hurt last week. In terms of tactics, I trust that the coaching staff identified the problems with leaving the likes of safeties Alex Cook and Kam Fabiculanan in one-on-one coverage with wide receivers. Perhaps it’s wishful thinking, but it feels like there should be opportunities for at least marginal improvement this week.
The other reason for optimism is that Arizona’s defense is not any better. Remember where I started with the explanation of how this frustrating UW defense ranked 115th nationally? Well, the Wildcats are even worse- 119th. The turnstiles will be open in both directions. The question becomes whether you trust Michael Penix or Jayden de Laura more to avoid mistakes in a Husky Stadium shootout. My faith in Penix and his receiving corps remains high, and even the running game should be able to thrive against this defense. No way am I going close to the 15.5 point spread, but I think the Dawgs will at least get back to the winner’s circle this week.
Washington- 41, Arizona- 37
Max Vrooman (5-1 SU, 2-4 ATS)
In some ways Arizona and Washington mirror one another just that the Wildcats started from a much deeper pit. Both teams added successful transfer quarterbacks that have reinvigorated a moribund passing game. They had a decisive victory over a team that was good last year and has turned out to be...not so good (San Diego State and Michigan State). And now both teams are left with a 1-2 record in the Pac-12 with a defense that has surrendered 40+ points in both of their defeats.
Perhaps the biggest difference between the teams is that while Washington’s fatal flaw on defense is an inability to stop the pass, the Wildcats are hapless against the run. Jadyn Ott for Cal ran for nearly 300 yards against them on nearly 15 yards per carry. Oregon ran for over 300 yards divided up with 4 different rushers getting 65+ on the ground with at least 5.5 yards per carry. Washington is banged up a little at the running back spot but whoever is healthy should be able to carve up that defense.
Similarly it’s tough to imagine Washington doing much to stop Arizona’s passing game. Jacob Cowing is one of the better receivers in the country and QB Jayden de Laura carved up the Dawgs with Washington State while Kyler Gordon and Trent McDuffie were at CB. They’re certainly not there anymore although UW should hopefully get a full game from S Asa Turner which may help.
Ultimately I think this game comes down to the Husky pass rush which went missing the last two games on the road. Left tackle Jordan Morgan has been one of the best linemen in the Pac-12 this year but right tackle Paiton Fears gave up multiple sacks to ZTF back in 2020 and will likely have PTSD with that matchup in Husky Stadium again. With the advantage of the crowd I think the Huskies come up with the vital strip sack they missed in their losses and it helps turn a one score game into a multi-score game at the end.
Washington- 49, Arizona- 38