WildcatAuthority.com: Arguably the most important position on the field is quarterback. With Jake Browning looking probable for the game on Saturday, what does he bring to the table for the Huskies that K.J. Carta-Samuels doesn't?
Dawgman.com: Jake is by far the best passer the Huskies have. He stays in the pocket and can hang longer in there than either K.J. or Jeff Lindquist. With the production he had at Folsom High School, he understands route concepts and trees and all the fundamentals it takes when knowing where receivers are supposed to be and just when he can get rid of the ball to bring receivers open in their routes. He's getting more and more comfortable in Jonathan Smith's scheme every week, and more importantly Smith is learning about Browning's strengths and preferences so he knows what to dial up at the right time to give Browning the best chance at being successful.
WildcatAuthority: For the second week in a row, it looks like Arizona will be bringing its quarterback controversy into the game. How does Washington plan for Anu Solomon and Jerrard Randall? What do the Huskies need to do to slow them down?
Dawgman: Well, the answer you'll hear Thursday from Chris Petersen during his last media availability in Seattle is that the Huskies just have to focus on themselves and not be that concerned with who is behind center. And the reality is, he's right. The same question came
up against Oregon and whether or not Vernon Adams was going to play (in the end he did play), but at a certain point in the season you are who you are.
I doubt Arizona is going to stray that far from their core beliefs when Randall comes in the game - although clearly they do run the ball more with him while they appear more balanced with Solomon. On paper, what defenses should do against Arizona looks pretty straightforward; limit the running backs and force the quarterbacks to win the game down the field. Obviously Randall's run threat adds another factor into the equation, but generally the Wildcats go as their run threat goes.
WildcatAuthority: With many key injuries this season, Arizona's defense has been towards the bottom of the league. The Wildcats have struggled with stopping both the run and the pass this year. Which Husky is going to have the most impact on offense and why?
Dawgman: The easy answer is Myles Gaskin. The true freshman has emerged from the running back pack to have back-to-back-to-back 100-yard games against USC, Oregon, and Stanford - and that's a mean feat if you're a senior, let alone in your first season playing college ball. The fans have been clamoring for Smith to give Gaskin the ball more, and if the weather conditions are as expected (cold and rainy), I expect Gaskin could get upward of 30 carries if he stays healthy. But the less obvious answer is the Washington offensive line.
They really do hold the key to the Huskies' offensive output. They started out well in pass protection, but couldn't do anything on the run versus Boise State. Over the course of the season they've clearly worked on the run game and now the opposite is true; they can run the ball but can't generate a consistent pass pro. That's been the biggest nemesis. Just looking at the statistics, Arizona's 12 sacks isn't going to be a number to scare fans off, but who knows if it's an accurate reflection of the kind of pressure the Wildcats bring. The stack defense means lots of blitzing angles of attack, and that's typically been a problem for young lines still getting in tune with their roles and
WildcatAuthority: Washington beat USC on the road and put up a good fight against Stanford with the backup quarterback. It is only the second season under Petersen, but what improvements have already been made within the program since he arrived?
Dawgman: They haven't been winning games, but the main improvement is that they haven't been giving games away. And they definitely don't have to worry about blowouts anymore, which is a huge departure from the Steve Sarkisian era. Fans may not like to hear that, but it'strue. Stanford won comfortably on the scoreboard, but the reality is they had to earn every yard and every point they got. Outside of a wheel route where they lost Christian McCaffrey in coverage, Washington played Stanford pretty straight-up on that side of the ball. But when the offense only runs 45 plays in a game, you have no chance - doesn't really matter who you play.
If anything, Petersen has brought back the Don James formula for success; win with defense and strong special teams. And that's kind of ironic for a coach known for his offensive wizardry. The defensive improvements made under Pete Kwiatkowski have been nothing short of stunning. Everyone - including myself - thought there would be a sizable gap left when UW lost six of their starting front seven last year - three to the top-45 picks of the NFL Draft - as well as first-round cornerback Marcus Peters, but in some ways they've been even better this year. It defies logic, but the development of the players behind those who left has shown up in a big way.
WldcatAuthority: What are the keys to the game for Washington?
Dawgman: As far as keys all the standard ones apply; no turnovers, run the ball, and stop the run. Can't get much more cliche than that. Arizona has been really good not turning the ball over, especially through the air, so Washington has to generate something there. A wet, sloppy game typically means the ball comes out, so a turnover at a key time could spell the difference. Normally I wouldn't bring up something like time of possession, as the correlation between TOP and winning has been debunked a thousand times already - but for Washington's offense I think TOP could really be a mitigating factor in this game.
Since the UA/UW game pits the two worst TOP teams in the league, I think it'll be interesting who ends up getting the better end of that stat. It's been pretty easy to see how TOP has affected Washington's W-L record. In all the FBS games they've played this year, when they've had the ball 30 minutes or more they've won;when they haven't had it that long they've lost. And in the case of the Stanford game, they didn't have it even 20 minutes! And we all know how that turned out.