Arizona football takes on the Washington Huskies for the team's third conference game of the year. The game will take place on Saturday, Oct. 12 at 8 p.m. Our staff writers, Jack Cooper, Amit Syal and Austin Wales, predict what will go down at Arizona Stadium.
Coming into this season, there was no way I would’ve thought to pick Arizona in this game, but here we are. They’re one of the hottest teams in the Pac-12 right now and playing their best football. Granted none of their wins have come against top teams, but I still like the way this game sets up for them.
Arizona is coming off a 35-30 win at Colorado in front of a sold out Folsom Field to give Kevin Sumlin his second road win since taking over as head coach last year. The players finally seem to understand what their positions are, especially the ones transitioning from a different position. Washington is going to stack the box against Arizona, so expect a lot of passes from Tate into-man to-man coverage.
Another big part of this game is going to be Arizona’s defense. They have played their best at home this year, and with over 50,000 people expected Saturday night, they should have another big game. For the Wildcats to win this game, I think they’ll have to be plus-two in the turnover battle. They’ll also have to get a lot of pressure on Washington quarterback Jacob Eason and force him into bad decisions. If they can do both of those things, I expect a close game throughout with Arizona winning by a possession or less.
Prediction: Arizona 24 Washington 21
Arizona football is on a hot streak, as the team has won its past four games. However, this week brings a new challenge: the Washington Huskies and their star quarterback: Jacob Eason, one of the best quarterbacks in the Pac-12. The transfer has put up over 1400 passing yards, as well as 11 touchdowns and three interceptions.
The Huskies are 4-2 on the season and they are coming off a 23-13 loss against Stanford on the road last week. Although Arizona has a 4-1 record this year, the majority of its wins have come from fairly weak opponents, such as NAU, UCLA and Colorado. This week, Arizona will have a test that they haven’t had all year: one of the best teams in the Pac-12 conference.
I think if Arizona can put pressure on Eason and force interceptions out of him, then the Wildcats will be in a great spot on Saturday night. However, that is a huge hypothetical. In reality, I think Eason will keep on doing what he’s been doing all year and shine at Arizona Stadium to give the Wildcats their second loss of the 2019 season.
Prediction: Arizona 35 Washington 49
Coming into this season, not many college football analysts would’ve picked Arizona to sit atop the Pac-12 South at 4-1. The Wildcats are on a four-game winning streak, mainly from the great play of their defense, who’s allowed 102 points, compared to their 148 points scored on offense. However, the teams Arizona has played this year outside of Texas Tech haven’t been all that great, so they will be tested this week as Washington comes to Tucson.
Arizona comes into this game off a 35-30 thriller over Colorado last week, and they should look to use that momentum coming into this game. Washington is a very sound defensive team tackling-wise, so fans should expect to see Arizona throw the ball as much as they did last week. J.J. Taylor will hopefully be back this week after only getting one carry last week before being shut down, so that experience from quarterback Khalil Tate and Taylor should be crucial for Arizona.
Washington brings junior quarterback Jacob Eason, who is one of the best quarterbacks in the Pac-12, and possibly the nation. Eason is able to have unbelievable precision on passes, as well as put touch on the ball as well. The Huskies also have one of the top backs in the Pac-12 in Salvon Ahmed so we should see a balanced attack from the Huskies.
The deciding factor of this game is going to be Arizona’s defense and whether or not they’re able to put pressure on Eason. Washington has one of the most experienced offensive lines in the Pac-12, so the Wildcats have to have some blitz packages that will catch the Huskies off-guard. If they’re able to do this, then they’re set. But in reality, Arizona hasn’t really had a great pass rush this season, only tallying one sack this season, which was only for a yard by defensive end Jalen Harris. This will eventually hurt the Wildcats, and they’ll drop their first game in Pac-12 play.
Prediction: Arizona 28 Washington 42
For a different perspective, the football writers at The Daily of the University of Washington offered their predictions for the game.
Heading into the season I thought this would be a trap game for the Huskies. Granted, to this point I thought Washington would be undefeated, but now the UW is facing the very real possibility of dropping its second game in a row for the first time since 2015. In wins, the Huskies look dominant on both sides of the ball, asserting their authority on offense through a strong run game, a precise passing game, producing turnovers and stuffing the run on defense.
However, in Washington’s two losses, none of those things have happened. The offense stagnated against both Cal and Stanford to where Jacob Eason locked onto a single target (often Aaron Fuller) and the run game never got going. On defense, and in both losses, the Huskies were picked apart by opposing quarterbacks and the run defense gave up nearly 200 yards on the ground.
With Arizona averaging well over 200 yards rushing this season, that matchup will obviously be key to determining who will win this game. That being said, traditionally Washington has responded well after losses and they are a team that has gotten off to strong starts this season. So far this season, the Huskies are outscoring teams 84-6 in the first quarter. In their losses to Cal and Stanford, the Huskies were either only holding on to a slim lead or no lead at all after one quarter. In their wins, they are outscoring opponents by 18.5 points in the opening frame.
This game will come down to UW’s start. If they can get out to a big early lead and take the Wildcat crowd out of the game, they could be poised for a bounceback win. If they find themselves in a tight, low-scoring game coming out of the half with an offense that looked as ineffective as it did last week, the Huskies will be in trouble. I think it’ll be somewhere in the middle, but because this game is being played in the desert, I have to give the home team the advantage.
Prediction: Arizona 28 Washington 20
How cursed is the state of Arizona for the UW? We're about to find out. The last time the Huskies went to Tucson, they did so with one of the best teams Washington has ever had and barely escaped with an overtime win. This year's team has obvious flaws that the 2016 squad didn't, and it'll be a test both of both the Huskies' execution and Chris Petersen's coaching to see if they can work their way out of what's become a bit of a tough situation this season.
Like usual, I think the key for Washington — on both sides of the ball — will be how balanced the offenses can be each down. Last week, Stanford averaged nearly 5 yards on its first-down plays, which was a problem for the UW's bend-but-don't-break style of defense. Give up 5 yards on first down and 3 more on second down, and the other team suddenly has an easier third-and-short to work with. Give that up too many times, and suddenly the defense's back is up against the goal line, like what has happened a fair bit the past two weeks.
On the other side of the ball, the Huskies are best when they can stay as multiple as possible, and often hapless when they become predictable. Washington went just 2-for-12 on third downs, but only dialed up two third-down run plays. With the UW tailbacks gaining just 104 yards, Jacob Eason struggled, throwing for just 206 passing yards and zoning in on Aaron Fuller more often than not.
On both offense and defense, Washington is a team that lives and dies on momentum. The Huskies have shown that they not only are dangerous once they're on a roll, but they can get themselves going on the road in a hostile environment. That being said, they've also shown that when things start to go wrong, they can compound quickly. This game is either going to be a statement by the 'Dawgs that they can punch back, or a snowball effect off of last week. Right now, I think the latter is more likely.
Prediction: Arizona 30 Washington 23
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