For the Cats, the imperative is driven by head coach Mike Stoops' 12-22 record entering the season and a 1-3 start to the campaign that includes an embarrassing setback to New Mexico two weeks ago.
For WSU, the pressure started to build last November against these very same Wildcats when the No. 25-ranked Cougs, 6-3 and looking to close with a bang, were upset at home and proceeded to lose their next two to torpedo what had appeared to be a certain bowl invitation. This season they've been mostly man-handled in the two games everyone knew they'd lose -- to No. 1 USC and No. 7 Wisconsin -- and looked mostly solid in the two games everyone knew they would win -- against San Diego State and Idaho.
|Cougars (2-2) vs Wildcats (1-3)|
AT A GLANCE
7 pm Pacific Time
Now comes the part of the season where the outcome each week isn't foretold.
All eyes in this one figure to be centered on the two quarterbacks. Arizona's Willie Tuitama leads the conference in passing, at 318 yards per game, and WSU's Alex Brink is second, averaging 278 air hashes per outing.
The game also will feature the league's two most prolific receivers in Arizona's Mike Thomas (31) and WSU's Michael Bumpus (25). Against USC on Saturday, Bumpus moved into second place on the WSU career list and now has 150 career receptions and trails only Hugh Campbell (176) all-time.
Despite all the air power, Arizona ranks last in the Pac-10 in scoring (26 points per game). The Cougars are fifth (31).
On defense, Arizona is mostly in the middle-the-pac from a statistical perspective -- though Cal, which hung 45 on them over the weekend -- is the only top 25 team they've played.
The Cougars are bringing up much of the Pac-10's defensive rear. They rank ninth in total defense, red zone defense, and passing defense, and tenth in third-down conversions allowed (57.9 percent).