Dawgbytes - 11/4

The $64 question going into this Saturday's matchup in the desert between Washington and Arizona - will Cody Pickett play? Washington head coach Keith Gilbertson wasn't ready to annoint either Pickett or backup Casey Paus to the throne, but did say that the senior from Caldwell, Idaho will get his chance to find out.

"He seems to be OK," Gilbertson said of Pickett Tuesday afternoon. "He'll go through the paces today and see what he can do." And the chances he'll start Saturday afternoon against the Wildcats? "Very good, unless he goes through practice and has symptoms."

Charles Frederick appears healthy again after a bruised sternum limited his practice time last week. "Well, he's got a uniform on," Gilbertson joked, alluding to the fact that Frederick will practice sparingly in preparation for the Arizona game. "Charles will never get an award being the best practice player."

Rich Alexis, the other half of the current Florida connection, is still out with a tear in his quad. Usually an injury like that could take weeks to hear, but Gilbertson is not ruling out a possible return. "It's too early to talk about that," he said. "I don't want to take hope away from him. He wants a shot at playing against Washington State, which is a week sooner than the medical staff said he would need to be ready."

Gilbertson also said that he doesn't expect Chris Massey or Roc Alexander to return and that Owen Biddle would continue to assume the starting strong safety position over Evan Benjamin.

In the balance for the Huskies in the final three weeks is a high bowl berth, even a possible Holiday Bowl invite - something that didn't seem possible just a couple of weeks ago. Gilbertson is having none of it. "We just have to take care of business," he said. "One day at a time. Besides, we would have to be insane to predict a bowl scenario. There are, like, 17 teams tied for bowl berths right now. We just need to get ready to play."

Most teams have pegged the Wildcats as a gimme this season, especially in the aftermath of John Mackovic's termination. Gilbertson knows all about the history between these cats and dawgs and knows interim head coach Mike Hankwitz will have his guys ready. "I've always thought they were mentally tough kids," Gilbertson said of the Arizona football program. "Even when I was at Cal there were nail-biters - games that would go to the last series, last play. And when I came back to Washington it was the same way. They are very tough, very competitive. They play hard against us."

So what will the Huskies do to simulate the environment they will undoubtedly see this Saturday? "At some point we'll go inside and turn the heat up," Gilbertson said. "I think it was 78 degrees today in Tucson, so it's much warmer than what we're used to. We'll be conscious of being hydrated, but other than that the temps will be in the 70's inside and we'll be practicing at roughly the same time during the day that the game is. But with 13 to 14 weeks of practice already, we should be in good shape."

This game will pit two head coaches that weren't that way coming out of their respective springs. Gilbertson can appreciate what Hankwitz is going through and is well qualified to talk about the situation he's currently faced with. "Well, I coached against Mike when he was at Colorado and I was at Washington and he also visited us up here a couple of times," he said. "I know Coach (Randy) Hart and Coach (Chuck) Heater are close with him and our staff has also visited him when he was at (Texas) A&M. He's always been a good defensive coach, but when you're put in the situation like he's in now, it's just crazy."

It's somewhat ironic that tomorrow marks the 100th day since Gilbertson assumed the keys to the Husky football program. "In this business, you're just trying to make it to 200," he quipped.

A win over the Wildcats will get Gilbertson's first Husky team bowl eligible, and put some much-needed fuel into a program that has had it's sputters of late.

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