Tucson, AZ (SportsNetwork.com) - With just a few games left on the schedule, the 17th-ranked Arizona Wildcats will attempt to pad their resume' when they host the Washington Huskies in a Pac-12 Conference clash on Saturday afternoon.
Washington does not bring a lot of momentum into this contest. Since earning their fifth win back on Oct. 11, the Huskies have been trending backward. They have lost three of their last four games, including a 44-30 disappointment at home against UCLA last weekend. Obviously, at 6-4, Washington is still going to be in the postseason, but that won't mean much if it continues to lose.
"We have a mix of new guys and guys who have played and we need to get everyone up to speed as fast as possible," Washington coach Chris Petersen said. "We have to compete harder all the time."
While Arizona is no longer the frontrunner to win the Pac-12 South, as it was after upsetting Oregon, it is still in the running. The Wildcats defeated Colorado, 38-20, last week to improve to 7-2 overall and 4-2 in league play, which has them a game back of in-state rival and division-leading Arizona State in the division standings. They are also a half game back of both UCLA and USC, which are each 5-2 in conference play.
A repeat of last season's outcome between these two squads would be excellent for Washington and terrible for Arizona. Led by a big game from RB Bishop Sankey, the Huskies rolled to a 31-13 victory to improve their lead in the all-time series to 19-10-1.
In a conference filled with top-notch offenses, Washington has been near the bottom all season. The Huskies are actually last in the league in total offense (365 ypg), although they are ninth in scoring (30.7 ppg). They held to those numbers in the loss to UCLA, finishing with 366 yards and 30 points.
The weakest part of Washington's offensive effort is the passing game. The Huskies are the only team in the Pac-12 to be averaging less than 190 yards per game through the air (177). Cyler Miles has done a good job of avoiding interceptions, with only two on the season, but he has only tallied 1,404 yards and 12 touchdowns. He finished with only 155 yards on 14-of-24 passing in the setback to UCLA.
Joshua Perkins was the leading receiver in that contest, ending up with 49 yards on four catches. However, Perkins has only 159 yards total this season. Jaydon Mickens (39 receptions, 331 yards, two TDs) is the top pass catcher, but he is only averaging 8.5 yards per reception.
Two-way player Shaq Thompson, who is fourth on the team in tackles (58), has taken over the role of feature back for the offense. He picked up an even 100 yards against UCLA, and now has a team-high 456 yards as well as two touchdowns on the season.
Speaking of the Huskies defense, the unit, which already lost defensive back Marcus Peters for disciplinary reasons last week, may be without an even more important player against Arizona. Hau'oli Kikaha, who leads the nation in sacks (16.5 ), is listed as questionable with a shoulder injury. Losing such a key cog in the machine will be tough to overcome for a team that is just seventh in the Pac-12 in total defense (416.4 ypg).
Making matters worse, Arizona isn't exactly a weak offensive team. The Wildcats are one of four teams in the Pac-12 to be averaging more than 500 yards of total offense per game (505.2), and they are also fourth in the Pac-12 in scoring (36.6 ppg).
In the win over Colorado, the Wildcats were back to their potent selves, after managing only seven points in the previous game against UCLA. They finished with 499 yards in the win over the Buffaloes, while scoring four touchdowns.
Anu Solomon threw for all four of those scores, while completing 21-of-38 pass attempts for 211 yards. He also racked up 115 yards on the ground. It was a sublime performance for Solomon, who has been excellent this season. He has 2,816 yards and 25 touchdowns, compared to only five interceptions, overall, while completing just under 60 percent of his pass attempts. On top of that, he has rushed for 314 yards.
Solomon and Samajie Grant really had something going against Colorado. Grant, who has only 381 yards and three touchdown receptions overall this season, finished with 83 yards and two scores on six catches against the Buffs.
"He is a very competitive guy and he can play inside and outside," Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said of Grant after the game. "He is overlooked sometimes and literally because he isn't very tall. He is a really good football player and he made some great plays tonight."
Grant's performance in that contest showed just how deep Arizona is at wide receiver, as Solomon also has Cayleb Jones (53 receptions, 734 yards, eight TDs) and Austin Hill (33 receptions, 459 yards, four TDs) to throw to.
The running game is led by Nick Wilson and Terris Jones-Grigsby. Wilson has compiled 763 yards and seven touchdowns on 130 carries this season, while Jones-Grigsby has accumulated 474 yards and three scores in more of a reserve role. Wilson produced 153 yards in the win over Colorado.
Arizona may not have the best defense in the Pac-12, ranking eighth in yards allowed (438.7 ypg) and sixth in scoring (26.1 ppg), but they have arguably the best overall defender in Scooby Wright. Wright is second in the league in tackles for loss (20.5) and total tackles (107). He also is third in sacks (12.0).