Washington (3-0, 0-0 in Pac-12) at Arizona (2-1, 0-0 in Pac-12)
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Arizona Stadium
The line: Washington by 11.5
TV: Pac-12 Networks
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Before the season began, this game felt like a much bigger test than it feels like now.
Not that it won’t be Washington’s biggest challenge to date. Arizona is certainly better than Idaho and Portland State, and probably better than Rutgers, too. But it seems that as this week has progressed, the Huskies are being seen as bigger and bigger favorites. Take this headline in the Arizona Daily Star, for example: “Arizona Wildcats are undersized underdogs against hulking Huskies.”
Against Arizona, though, it never seems to be that simple. Especially in Tucson. The Huskies seemingly had the Wildcats beat in the desert two years ago, before … well, you know what. There was a fumble, a field goal and a whole lot of talk about a chart.
But the programs have gone in different directions since that game. Arizona took a step back last season – including a 49-3 loss at Husky Stadium – and completely retooled its defensive coaching staff. The Huskies, meanwhile, have ascended into the top 10 without playing any games of particular consequence.
On paper, it’s hard to see how Arizona keeps up with the Huskies. UA’s defense isn’t great – the Wildcats rank 78th nationally in yards per play allowed – and they obviously prefer to run the ball offensively, a style that seems to play into the hands of UW’s big, fast, experienced defensive front. Though it remains to be seen how the Huskies will fare against the running abilities of Brandon Dawkins, who figures to start at quarterback with Anu Solomon still listed as “questionable.”
Arizona will also play this game without two defensive starters – nose guard Parker Zellers and linebacker DeAndre’ Miller – and will likely see some packages and plays from the UW offense that the Huskies didn’t get to during their three blowouts to begin the season.
Don’t know if I see any reason why the Huskies won’t win. Call it a comfortable victory to start Pac-12 play, and UW’s first win in the desert since 2006.
The pick: Washington 42, Arizona 21.