Washington State's defense has struggled this season, but the silver lining is the Cougars' run defense has performed admirably at times.
Part of the reason is the three down linemen are physical guys with similar dimensions, each of whom can cause problems for opponents’ offensive lines.
Anchoring the middle is 6-foot-1, 300-pound nose tackle Kalafitoni Pole. Pole has actually been running with the twos this week for an unknown reason, but he is still likely to see plenty of snaps this week.
In his place has been 6-foot-4, 295-pound Destiny Vaeao. He only has six tackles this season, but the coaching staff is generally high on him and he is still a capable player.
Junior Darryl Paulo will likely start at end and the 6-foot-1, 260-pounder has 11 tackles this season with two of them being sacks. Obviously his size leaves something to be desired, but he is relatively quick off the edge.
Xavier Cooper is probably the Cougars' best defensive lineman right now. The 6-foot-4, 300-pound junior has six tackles for loss and three of them have been sacks. If there is a player on the line that Arizona is going to consistently need to account for, it is Cooper.
Starting at the Mike is Peyton Pelleur. It's an interesting move because he moved ahead of Darryl Monroe this week, despite Monroe starting 32 games in his career and being second on the team in tackles.
Lining up at the Sam is 6-foot-0, 208-pound Cyrus Coen. Despite being very undersized, Coen has been a playmaker for the Cougars and has 4.5 tackles for loss on the season.
The Cougars will start two more linebackers in juniors Kache Palacio and Jeremiah Allison. Of the two, Allison has been the better linebacker, as he is third on the team with 43 tackles and second with 5.5 tackles for loss.
Washington State's secondary has not been very good this season, but cornerback Daquawn Brown has had his moments. He leads the Cougars with 55 tackles, has five tackles for loss, and has broken up eight passes.
If the Cougars are unable to get pressure from the defensive line, don't be surprised if Brown is sent on corner blitzes in order to try to get Solomon rattled a bit.
Lining up opposite Brown is 5-10, 176-pound redshirt freshman Charleston White. He may have 11 pass break ups, but a lot of that is due to the fact that opposing teams choose to throw at him quite often.
Hameed is a true freshman and at 5-10, 182-pounds, has struggled to find any type of consistency so far this season.
Players to Watch
#4, CB Daquawn Brown: It’s never a good sign when the cornerback is leading the team in tackles, but that is exactly the case with Brown. The slight of build defensive back has been one of the Cougars' better defenders and is also among the team leaders in tackles for loss.
#3, LB Ivan McLennan: McLennan may be a reserve, but he has 3.5 sacks this season. With the way Arizona's offense presents itself, expect McLennan to see plenty of playing time.
#30, SS Taylor Taliulu: The Cougars may choose to go with experience at safety because of Arizona's passing ability. Taliulu has 40 tackles and could see increased playing time.
Keys to the Game
Hit the open man: Solomon has struggled a bit with his deeper passes, but this game presents an opportunity for Arizona to go vertical. In order to do so, Solomon has to be more accurate.
Pound the ball: The Washington State defense has been susceptible through the air and on the ground, but the teams that had the most success ran the ball. Besides wearing down the Cougar defense, this strategy has, at times, thrown off the rhythm-based WSU offense.
Don’t let the conditions alter the outcome: There is a chance it will rain in Pullman, so you can expect Rich Rodriguez to emphasize ball security. If Arizona limits its turnovers, Washington State's chances of winning decrease dramatically.