The Huskies are 3-3 with a 1-2 conference record. Washington did upset the Stanford Cardinal at home to open Pac-12 play, but lost to Oregon and USC in consecutive weekends before heading to Tucson, where it will take on the Arizona Wildcats.
The Huskies were expected to have a potent offense, building off of the performance last season. So far, that has failed to happen. The Huskies rank in the bottom quarter of the Pac-12 in most offensive categories, but Sarkisian thinks that the team is getting better.
"We've played some good teams and endured some injuries," Sarkisian said. "We're getting better. We are showing significant progress in the running game and our consistency in the passing game will continue to improve."
With the offense having its struggles, it is no surprise that Washington is sitting with a .500 record at the midpoint of the season. The Husky defense has been a factor in Washington's wins this season and has helped keep many games close.
"We have some players that have matured in the back end," Sarkisian said. "Our defensive coordinator, Justin Wilcox, has done a great job of putting the best athletes we have on the field. I think we do a good job of getting sticky on routes and rerouting guys and ultimately making plays on the ball with confidence."
Heading to Tucson, it should be a battle of wills when the Washington defense meets the Arizona offense. Arizona ranks in the top of the country in total offense, specifically with the passing game. Washington's pass defense has been the strongest unit on the team this season, but that doesn't mean that Sarkisian will sit on the Wildcat offense.
"I think Arizona has great rhythm when they throw the ball," he said. "Matt (Scott) knows where he wants to go with the football and has a quick release. They have some great receivers who can win one-on-one matchups.
"Obviously Coach Rodriguez has a great system in place. They get the matchups they want and can take advantage of them."
With Arizona's offense finding so much success early in Rich Rodriguez's first season, it is easy to look to the future. The Wildcat offense may not be an Oregon replica, but Sarkisian believes that there are a few similarities between the two.
"I think the biggest similarity is the tempo in which they operate," he said. "They both operate at extremely high tempos. Arizona really, I think the goal is to run about 100 plays a game; which, if you look at it, USC ran 60 plays last week, we ran 58 – so imagine playing two games, is what it's like when you play Arizona.
"They've got a tremendous running back in Ka'Deem Carey. And then they've got two big wide receivers on the outside that they try to get the ball to in one-on-one situations. I don't know if they're as multiple as Oregon, but they might even be faster in how many reps they try to get within a game. They're going to try to repeat calls and go as fast as they can go."
When the Huskies roll into Arizona Stadium, it will be the first time that Sarkisian will meet Rodriguez in a game, but the Washington Head Coach knows plenty about his opponent and his previous stops.
"The defense is different from what they did at Michigan," Sarkisian said. "It's similar to what they did at West Virginia, with the 3-3-5 stack and the multitude of defensive backs on the field. They're arguably playing with six DBs on the field now with the move of Marquis Flowers to linebacker. So that's a bit different from what he did when he was at Michigan. Offensively, it's all pretty similar."
Saturday's game will mark the second time in as many years that two brothers will face off against each other. Washington linebacker Thomas Tutogi is the younger brother of Arizona fullback/defensive end Taimi Tutogi. Last season, Thomas played primarily on special teams, but this year, he is UW's leading tackler.
"I think it's cool for them and their family," Sarkisian said. "They can go to one game and see both of their family members play. It's exciting for the family. I'm sure both guys want to get a chance to hit each other a little bit."