Washington (6-4, 2-4 in Pac-12) at No. 17 Arizona (7-2, 4-2)
12:30 p.m. PT Saturday, Arizona Stadium
The line: Arizona by 9.5
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In some ways, anything other than a blowout should be considered a success for a Washington Huskies team that has been shellacked in its most recent trips to the desert.
Last year, the Huskies essentially failed to show up in a 53-24 loss at Arizona State. The year before, the Huskies were blasted, 52-17, at Arizona. Go back to 2010, and it was a 44-14 loss at Arizona. In 2009, UW's trip to the desert was at least close, with Arizona State using a last-second Hail Mary to win 24-17. In 2008, Washington lost 48-14 at Arizona, a defeat so discouraging that athletic director Scott Woodward actually met with reporters on the field afterward to discuss questions about Tyrone Willingham's job status. In 2007, it was a 44-20 loss in Tempe.
You have to go all the way back to 2006 to find Washington's last win over either of the Arizona schools on the road. That year, quarterback Isaiah Stanback and linebacker Scott White led the Huskies to a 21-10 win over Arizona in Tucson.
So, now that all of those old wounds have been re-opened, we look to this year's matchup. Arizona has taken another pretty big step forward in Rich Rodriguez's third season as coach, the Huskies are coming off a pretty deflating loss to UCLA, and there are still all kinds of questions about UW's offensive capabilities.
Arizona does rank 98th nationally in total defense -- and 118th in passing yards allowed -- so maybe Cyler Miles can actually complete a few passes longer than 10 yards down the field. But he's only going to be able to do that if he gets adequate protection from a still-banged-up offensive line, and if the Huskies can manage to establish any kind of a consistent running game with Shaq Thompson playing more linebacker than tailback.
On defense, the Huskies do get the boost of Thompson returning to linebacker and, likely, Hau'oli Kikaha returning from the shoulder stinger that forced him out of last week's game. If he can make it through the game at something resembling full strength, that will make things a lot harder on Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon, who has thrown for a bunch of yards this season (2,816), but hasn't been all that accurate, completing only 59.5 percent of his passes.
Still, the Huskies' secondary could be in for a long day. Arizona has a bunch of tough covers in its receiving corps, including leading receiver Cayleb Jones, Austin Hill, Samajie Grant, Nate Phillips and Trey Griffey (son of Ken Griffey Jr.), and that's a big reason why the Wildcats rank 14th nationally in passing offense (though they throw it more than almost anyone else in the country). And while there's no doubt John Ross III's speed and athleticism could one day allow him to be a great cover-corner, the fact is that he's playing in his second full game there, making his first start at the position, and it's asking a lot for a guy in that situation to go out and knock heads against what might be the conference's deepest crew of receivers.
Arizona has better offensive skill players, a more established system and, perhaps, a mental edge in knowing the Huskies get blown out in the desert far more often than they win there. For that reason, we're going with the Wildcats.
The pick: Arizona 42, Washington 24.
Christian Caple can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @ChristianCaple