TUCSON, Ariz. – The easy part of the schedule is over for Arizona. Now things get real with a visit to No. 16 Washington.
The Wildcats (3-0) had nonconference victories over Northern Arizona, UNLV and UTSA, all by comfortable margins. Then Arizona had last week off.
Now it's on to Seattle for what could be a wet and certainly a loud afternoon in one of the toughest venues in the Pac-12.
Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez acknowledged that he's heard it's a tough place to play but downplayed the significance of that kind of experience.
"It's not like the old Roman days or anything," he said Monday. "I mean, they're not going to have guns and knives and your life's at stake. It's just a football game. I hear it's pretty loud."
Joke or not, Arizona is in for a challenge.
Wildcats linebacker Sir Thomas Jackson is from Seattle and remembers attending a big game there when he was a junior in high school.
"They beat USC with Jake Locker," Jackson said. "So you talk about how loud that stadium is, I couldn't hear myself talk" to the guy next to him.
And that was before the stadium was reconfigured and seats were added.
The Wildcats are using big loudspeakers to try to simulate the noise, and they're soaking the footballs in practice to prepare for the chance of rain.
Arizona is an eight-point underdog and an unknown quantity given the quality of its competition to date. That, by the way, is an issue that quarterback B.J. Denker is tired of hearing about.
"There's no pretend games in football," he said. "You only get 12. Yes, this is Pac-12 play. We know this is a bigger deal. This is going to be the best team we've played so our focus is even more intense. But we've been playing since Week 1. There's no fake games in football."
Denker said the players didn't make the schedule.
"We can only face who's on the schedule," he said. "I don't think the normal fan appreciates that. If you're D-I Double-A (FCS) or if you're a lower tier Division I football, this game is rough. You can't just go out on the field and expect a victory because someone will smack you in the mouth. Yeah, I get a little tired of it because, 'Well, they were supposed to win these games.' Yeah, but we had to go out and execute."
One thing's for certain, Arizona will run the ball first and throw second.
The Wildcats rank fifth nationally with 322.3 yards rushing per game. All-American Ka'Deem Carey has 299 yards and four touchdowns, even though he sat out the season opener for disciplinary reasons. Daniel Jenkins has 239 yards and a touchdown and Denker 224 yards and five TDs.
Every week, the Wildcats go into the game thinking the opponent will dedicate extra personnel to stopping the run.
"If they want to try and win the football game, they will, and that's going to be every team we play," Denker said. "So we're going to do what we do. We're going to try and run the football, and we're going to throw when necessary. And I feel like even if they try to stop the run as hard as they're going to, we're still going to be successful. Our offensive line's been blocking great. D.J. (Jenkins) and Ka'Deem can do some special things, even if there's an extra guy on the box. And I can use my legs when necessary."
The visit coincides with the 15th anniversary of one of the most memorable plays in Arizona football history, quarterback Ortege Jenkins' "Leap by the Lake" to beat the Huskies in Seattle 31-28.
On Oct. 3, 1998, the athletic Wildcat scrambled and, launching himself from outside the 3-yard line, did a complete front flip over the Washington defensive line and stuck the landing in the end zone.
"I wish I had some guys that could leap like Jenkins could leap," Rodriguez said. "That was pretty exciting."
Denker said in that situation, he'd at least give it a try.
Follow Bob Baum at www.twitter.com/Thebaumerphx