Arizona travels to Seattle this weekend to take on a somewhat surprising Washington squad that is fighting to stay in the Pac-12 North race. The Huskies offense has been solid throughout the course of the 2011 campaign thus far, highlighted by a scoring average of 34.7 points per game.
Many wondered just how well UW's offense would perform this year in the first season of the post Jake Locker era. Locker's replacement has been, at the very least, his equal, if not more impressive.
Keith Price has been very efficient leading the Washington offense; evident by his 22 to 5 touchdown-to-interception ratio on the season. Price has been very accurate with his passes as well. The sophomore has completed 141 out of 206 pass attempts for 1,713 yards.
The Huskies have been able to limit mistakes through the air and while Price has been a reliable signal-caller, UW's passing attack ranks a mere eighth in the conference in yards per game. Washington can move the ball through the air, but it does it with more of a conservative approach.
Price's main targets are senior wideouts Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar. Kearse has been one of the conference's top receiving targets for a few years now and is having another solid season with 27 catches, 336 yards and a team-leading six touchdown receptions. Kearse is an exceptional player that has the ability to give the depleted Arizona secondary problems throughout the game.
Aguilar has been just as important to UW's attack as Kearse. The six-foot senior receiver has compiled 26 receptions for a team-high 401 yards and three touchdowns. The duo of Aguilar and Kearse gives Price two starting receivers to help open the field. In the past, most of the focus has from the opposition has been on Kearse, but with Aguilar providing equal support, it makes it difficult to focus on one receiver over the other.
The Huskies will incorporate more than just two receivers in their passing attack. Two other targets – tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and wide receiver James Johnson – have at least 20 receptions. Seferian-Jenkins has caught 20 passes for 321 yards and four touchdowns while Johnson has 25 receptions for 314 yards and three scores.
Seferian-Jenkins gives Price a big target to use over the middle of the field and in the red zone. The tight end is second on his squad in touchdown receptions and should see plenty of chances Saturday. Johnson gives Washington a third receiver to help spread the field and take some of the pressure off the two starters.
The passing game is supported by the third-rated rushing attack in the Pac-12. The Huskies have gained 1214 yards over a span of seven games – an average of 173.4 yards per contest. UW is led on the ground by the leading rusher in the Pac-12, Chris Polk. The junior has totaled 872 yards on 149 carries in 2011. Polk has rushed for a 5.9 yards per carry average and five touchdowns.
The presence of Polk has been able to take a lot of pressure off of Price and helped open up the passing game.
Both Jesse Callier and Bishop Sankey back up Polk. Both have been effective in limited roles and while they will most likely get a few carries between them, Polk will receive the majority of the touches.
The offensive line is a stout group that plays solid in pass protection while impressing even more in the run. The unit has given up 14 sacks but has also helped pave the way for a rushing average of five yards per carry.
Washington's offense is very efficient, consistent and it doesn't make too many mistakes. It usually won't beat its opponent with too many big plays, but its efficiency allows it to move the ball enough and put plenty of points on the board.
1. Focus on stopping the run: The Wildcats were successful against UCLA's rushing attack last week, which was one of the best in the conference heading in. Washington is in the same boat, as the Huskies are very effective running the ball and will attempt to pile up the yards Saturday. However, if UA can find success with its run defense again, the Wildcats could pull off the upset.
2. Pressure Price: UW has been decent in pass protection this season and Price has been successful in a lot of ways because of it. If Arizona can get into the backfield and pressure Price it will allow the rest of the defense the opportunity to make plays.
3. Blanket the receivers in the red zone: Price has thrown 22 touchdown passes this year and utilizes his receivers in the red zone very well. The Huskies are very good inside their opponents' 20-yard line and if Arizona can defend the UW wideouts well enough, it can really hinder Washington's ability to put points on the board.
4. Third down: The Huskies are second in the conference in third-down conversions. Limit those conversions Saturday and the Wildcats give their offense more chances with the ball.
5. Force turnovers: One of the biggest reasons for Washington's success on offense has been its lack of turnovers. If UA can force the Huskies into making mistakes, it could completely derail the UW attack.
Washington Offensive Preview
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