The Huskies take on the Arizona Wildcats in Husky Stadium at 12:00 pm on Saturday. The early start time is to accommodate the regional television audience. The Huskies goal this year is to get every single one of their games televised, and they seem to be doing a good job getting it done. No word on next week with Stanford as of yet, that will be toughie since it is on the road, and interest in the Cardinal program is still low despite a bit of a resurgence this season.
Arizona like Washington has struggled this year, but unlike Washington the Wildcats have struggled against a much easier schedule. This was the year that Mike Stoops was supposed to put it all together in Tucson, but the season has been disappointing so far. One interesting note is the entire coaching staff was crying tears of frustration after losing to Stanford. It is obvious these guys want to win, but it also obvious that if they don't turn it around this weekend they will be dismissed at the end of the year.
The Washington staff doesn't feel that type of urgency yet, and it could be to their disadvantage on Saturday when playing a program with their collective backs up against the wall. The heat has been turned up on the Ty Willingham as the press is starting to criticize the team a bit. The message boards have been just brutal since the USC loss, and Husky fans are desperate for a win. That being said, no jobs are in danger this year since Ty is likely to continue coaching at UW at least till the end of his contract.
The next two weekends are must wins for the Huskies. Arizona, and Stanford are a couple of teams that they should beat since they represent the bottom of the Pac Ten. Nationally people look at the Huskies schedule and realize that it has been the nations toughest so far, some even go as far as labeling the Huskies as the best 2-5 team in the country. UW has had a chance to win every single game they have been in this year, and took Oregon who may be the best program in the country down to the last six minutes of the fourth quarter last weekend.
Moral victories aren't cutting it anymore for Willingham, and his staff. If they lose one of the next two, or the unthinkable, both of them, the fire is going to be turned up to record levels for Ty and his crew.
Why Arizona will win
The Wildcats aren't a bad football team despite the record. They have shown improvement on offense this season and are one of the leading passing teams in the league. Despite that improvement they have had a lot of trouble in the red zone, and that means they are not doing a very good job rushing the ball, or coming through in the clutch.
Defensively the team is a couple notches below where most people thought they would be coming into the season. Stoops of course is a head coach with defensive roots, and the Wildcats have some real talent throughout the defense that the Huskies would be envious of. For one reason or another this group hasn't jelled as a unit yet this season except for the WSU game. For the Cat's to beat the Huskies they need to come up with the type of performance they are capable of.
Arizona will win this game if they can control Jake Locker, and take away the Washington running game. If they make Locker beat them with passing they have a shot for the upset. On the offensive side of the ball they will test the Washington secondary all day. The Huskies have been dealing with the run for the most part the last five weeks, and this is the first pass first team they have played since Syracuse. Offensively if Willie Tuitama can hit his receivers and they can get extra yards against a soft Washington coverage it may open up the running game which would give the Wildcats the balance they need to win the game, and convert in the red zone.
Why Washington will win
The Huskies are playing at home in front of a homecoming crowd against the first team they have been favored against since the opener against Syracuse. This Washington team is still in the bowl hunt, and they are very aware that a win against a beatable opponent like Arizona will help erase the pain of the past few weeks, setting the tone for the rest of the season.
If you watched the Oregon game last week there was one thing that stuck out more than anything, and that is the offense led by Jake Locker is starting to come together. Louis Rankin is now rushing the way we all thought he could, and the Huskies finally have a deep game which is starting to stretch the field. If Washington can score 34 points on Oregon they can score at least that many against Arizona.
Defensively the Huskies had a historically bad performance against the Ducks. The Wildcats won't be nearly as tricky, physical, or as talented. The Washington front should finally be playing against a team they can dominate, or at least slow down. The Washington DB situation has solidified quite a bit at corner even though the safety position lacks a hammer. Arizona likes to throw it about three yards out to the edge much like Syracuse did, the Huskies should be able to shut down with tighter coverage at the line of scrimmage. Look for the Huskies to hurry Tuitama into making mistakes which turn into turnovers.
What do I think?
I think Washington is going to kick the ever loving crap out of the Wildcats. Jake has shown me enough growth over the last couple of weeks that I think he will run all over Arizona. I predict that he will have 250 yards through the air, and over 100 on the ground. Louis Rankin will have his first 100 yard game since Syracuse, and the Husky defense will keep the Wildcats under twenty points. the UW defense will also atone for last week by keeping the UA running game under 100 yards, and they will put enough pressure on Tuitama to force him into three interceptions.
That is pretty optimistic isn't it?
Well if Washington is going to win five out of the next six, and go bowling it all starts with a breakout performance on Saturday against a team they should beat on most Saturday's.
Washington has played a top ten team each week since they started the season 2-0. I think playing that type of competition, and staying competitive each week will help them during the second half of the year win some games. UW isn't a top ten team, but I think we can beat every team left on our schedule including Cal.
Will they do it?
I don't know, but this weekend will give us the answers we need, and I think we are going to like those answers.