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A couple of hot teams making a run at bowl berths clash in Washington State vs. Arizona

WITH THE COUGS receiving votes in the AP Poll, what would it take for Washington State to crack the top 25, a place the Cougars haven't been since November of 2006?

A win over unranked Arizona (1 p.m. Saturday, Pac-12 Networks; Wildcats by 7) by itself probably won't do the job, but should the Cougars follow up by beating Stanford on Oct. 31, Washington State is a virtual lock for a top 25 place in the coaches and writer's polls. And any other poll that's out there.

At 4-2, Washington State has proven to the country that the Portland State loss was a fluke, and with each passing win, fewer people are holding it against the Cougars. A 6-2 Washington State team with a win over Stanford and Oregon and three road wins on its résumé cannot be denied. Though at that point, while you feel good about cracking the top 25, you're really thinking, is the Pac-12 North title a possibility?

Washington State represents the iffiest prospect in terms of an expected win/loss for Arizona this season. UCLA and Stanford came into their games against the Wildcats ranked in the top 20 and played the part, hammering Arizona by 26 and 38 points, respectively. Arizona handled perhaps the Pac-12's two worst teams in Oregon State and Colorado, although the Wildcats were extended last Saturday before scoring a 38-31 win over the Buffaloes.

The Wildcats have compiled more than 600 yards offense in each of their past two games, and lead the Pac-12 in scoring at 41.7 points per game. That is three points ahead of UA's school record, set in 1954. Arizona is tied for the Pac-12 lead in rushing offense (297 ypg), and leads the league overall in total offense (542 ypg).

The quarterback position is up in the air for Saturday. The likely candidate is Anu Solomon, although he struggled enough at Colorado that coach Rich Rodriguez briefly benched him during the second half in favor of Jerrard Randall, whose legs gave Arizona a spark.

The 6-foot-2 Solomon, who missed most of two games with an injury, has completed 114 of 182 passes for 1,404 yards and 13 touchdowns during his sophomore season. During Monday's press conference, Rodriguez hinted that Randall could start.

Jared Baker has been a hot running back since filling in for injured Nick Wilson two weeks ago. Baker ran for 207 yards and two touchdowns against Colorado, a week after posting a 123-yard effort against Oregon State. Baker is averaging more than 10 yards per carry his past two games. Wilson, who has a team-high 683 yards this season, is questionable for the Cougars.

In the passing game, Arizona spreads the ball around, as four receivers have between 23 and 27 catches this season. David Richards and Johnny Jackson each have a team-high four touchdown receptions, while Cayleb Jones is the overall numbers leader at 27 catches for 364 yards.

Defensively, the Wildcats are not stout, they give up 426 yards per game, 10th in the Pac-12. Their pass efficiency defense rating of 133.1 is ninth in the league. Arizona desperately misses its defensive leader Scooby Wright, who is out indefinitely with a knee injury.

As for turnovers, Arizona isn't particularly noteworthy either way. They have eight takeaways, second worst in the Pac-12, but are tied for a league-low seven turnovers. Same goes for defensive pressure statistics such as sacks and tackles for loss. The Wildcats don't have a single player among the Pac-12's top 20 in either category. Defensive end Jack Banda leads UA in sacks with two, both coming against Colorado.

The team's top tacklers are Will Parks (he plays the 'Spur' position) with 45 and Jamar Allah with 37.  Parks also has a team-high six pass breakups. Tellas Jones (who plays 'Bandit') leads the team in tackles for losses with 4.5.

The series: The Cougars never had a chance last year, as Arizona built a 31-point first half lead on the way to a 59-37 win in Pullman. Solomon went 26 of 38 for 294 yards through the air. The Wildcats leads the series 26-14. Arizona's stadium has not been a house of horrors for WSU, however. In their past five trips to Tucson, the Cougs are 3-2.

Familiar faces: Three Washingtonians made their way onto Arizona's roster, including second-year freshman Marcus Griffin, a defensive lineman from Bellevue who once verbally committed to the Cougs. He has two tackles on the year and is not listed in the two-deeps. Also on UA's roster are freshman tight end Brion Anduze (Silverdale/Central Kitsap) and junior offensive lineman Chase Hanlon (Des Moines/Mt. Rainier). Another player with loose Washington ties is junior receiver Trey Griffey, son of former Mariners' great Ken Griffey Jr. As for coaches, WSU defensive line coach Joe Salave'a is a former Arizona great. Former Coug lineman Jim Michalczik (1984-88) coaches the offensive line for Arizona and the team's head of equipment operations is Wendell Neall, who held a similar post at WSU from 1989-98.

NOTABLE NOTES

  • The last time the Cougars were 4-2 was 2013, though they didn't get win No. 5 until after enduring a three-game losing streak. WSU's 24-17 win at Arizona got the Cougars back on track, as they qualified for a bowl game that season.


  •  Dom Williams was the receiving star the last time WSU played in Tucson, leading the Cougars with seven catches for 75 yards.


  • Three of Washington State's seven 100-yard rushing performances since Mike Leach became coach in 2012 have happened this season.


  • The Cougars are averaging 8.5 tackles per loss in each game, No. 2 in the Pac-12 and eighth in the country.


  • Arizona has won eight straight against unranked opponents.

Read Nick Daschel’s occasional Pac-12 ramblings at twitter.com/nickdaschel


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