The Washington Huskies (3-3, 1-2 in Pac-12) are coming off of two straight losses and their trip to Tucson will be a battle of teams trying to right the ship as the second half of the season starts.
Washington started the season with much promise, but the offense faltered in a shutout to LSU and never regained much composure. The offense, led by quarterback Keith Price, is ranked in the lower fourth of the conference, regressing from the performance a season ago.
Price hasn't had as many targets this season, but has found Kasen Williams and Austin Seferian-Jenkins more often than not over the course of the season, as Williams leads all receivers with 33 catches for 362 yards and four touchdowns and Seferian-Jenkins is not far behind with 29 receptions for 337 yards and two touchdowns.
Washington's running game focuses on Bishop Sankey, who has 103 carries for 514 yards and six trips to the end zone. Even though Sankey is the main running threat, Price has been known to tuck the ball and run with 35 quarterback keepers for 140 yards.
The Huskies are much better on the defensive side of the ball. Giving up 25.8 points per game isn't great, but it has been good enough to keep the team in most of the games this season.
Washington's run defense is the weakness that Arizona may try to exploit, as the Huskies are giving up 182.5 yards per game on the ground. If the Wildcats try to run the ball against Washington, they could find major success.
The Huskies' passing defense may pose a threat for the Arizona offense. With Matt Scott going to the air more often as the weeks pass by, Washington's secondary is only allowing 172 passing yards per game, which is surprising considering it is giving up more yards on the ground. The secondary is young, but shows promise with youngsters such as Sean Parker and Shaq Thompson and veteran Desmond Trufant.
Arizona should be powerful enough to put up points against Washington. However, the key of the game will be whether or not Washington's offense can get back on track and find ways to score points. If the Huskies struggle, it could be a long road trip back to Washington.
Players to watch:
#17 QB, Keith Price – The junior has underperformed this season, but running quarterbacks have always performed well against Arizona. With this being a pivotal game, Price will try to carry the team on his back if that's what it takes.
#88 TE, Austin Seferian-Jenkins – The sophomore two-sport athlete may be one of the best tight ends in the country when all is said and done. He is a big body who is one of the most dangerous targets Arizona has seen this year. The Wildcats struggled with Stanford's tight ends last time out and this will be another test for the defense.
#25 RB, Bishop Sankey – Arizona has struggled at times to stop opposing running attacks. With the threat of Price taking the ball himself, Sankey may see fewer defenders in his way. If he gets going early, it could open up the field for the big Husky targets.
#50 LB, Thomas Tutogi – Younger brother of Arizona's Taimi Tutogi, Thomas is the Huskies' leading tackler. He has been a force for the Huskies so far this year and will look to make some big stops going against his brother.
#7 S, Shaq Thompson – After playing rookie-level baseball, Thompson returned to football just in time for Fall camp. He has been all over the field so far for Washington and it is easy to see his athleticism come out in the way that he plays. Thompson could go a long ways towards helping the secondary slow down Matt Scott and the Wildcats' offense.
Keys to the game:
1. Contain Price: Keith Price is the engine behind the UW offense. If he is on his game, then Arizona's defense will be hard pressed to stop him. It's a matter of keeping him in the pocket and making Price make throws to beat Arizona's secondary. If he gets comfortable running the ball, the game could change.
2. Keep an eye on ASJ: Arizona has been exploited by opposing tight ends so far this season and Seferian-Jenkins may be the best that the Wildcats face all season. He could be one of the biggest factors in how Washington's offense does in the game.
3. Feed off the crowd: It is Family Weekend in Tucson and there are over a dozen recruits in the stands. Not to mention that it has been three weeks since there was a game in Arizona Stadium. The crowd will be ready for some football and the Wildcats need to use that in their favor.
4. Run the ball: As mentioned before, Washington has one of the worst rushing defenses in the Pac-12 and possibly the country. The combination of Matt Scott and Ka'Deem Carey should be potent enough to put up major ground numbers against the Huskies' defense.
5. Score early and often: The Wildcats have won every game in which they have scored on the first possession. It correlates with the momentum of the game and how much confidence the team has. If the offense can put up numbers early, there doesn't seem to be a way Washington can keep pace.