After expected victory last week, the Huskies get their first real challenge this season when they travel to Arizona. Though Arizona has not played well thus far, they are still a Pac-12 team that could surprise the Huskies who are untested against a conference opponent. Let’s first review the Huskies win from last week and then see what is in store for the Dawgs vs Cats match up.
UW had no issues last week on defense. Again the defense played up to expectations versus Portland State with several sacks and holding Portland State to under 200 yards of offense and 3 points. The secondary did allow a few big plays to convert for first downs but otherwise a solid effort. The offense looked strong with Jake Browning again making it look easy in his limited time on the field. The running game started gaining steam, though Gaskin still has not broken 100 yards for the season. There were some concerns on special teams with poor punt protection and a missed extra point. Overall, the Huskies did what they were expected to do against Portland State both defensively and offensively. Now for the first real test playing their first game on the road versus the Arizona Wildcats.
Arizona comes into conference play with a 2-1 record. They lost a close battle with BYU and then had to come from behind against Grambling, which is a team they should have blown out by a much larger margin than 10 points. They seemed to get their footing in the Hawaii game with a new backfield combo in Brandon Dawkins and J.J. Taylor. Dawkins looked solid in relief for an injured Anu Solomon and J.J. Taylor tore up the field with 168 yards against a mostly inept Hawaii defense. The starters Anu Solomon and Nick Wilson both appear to be out for this week’s match up against Washington so we should expect Dawkins and Taylor to return in their starting roles this week. Because Nick Wilson is out and Orlando Bradford was arrested and subsequently removed from the team the running back depth is thin for Arizona. The Wildcats are moving wide receiver Tyrell Johnson to the running back position likely until Wilson is healthy. The offensive line for Arizona is still getting its feet. Sadly, the starting center Zach Hemilia passed away in his sleep in August leaving starting center duties to redshirt freshman Nathan Eldridge. Protecting Dawkins will be an uphill battle for this offensive line. Arizona has 3 veteran receivers all graduating this year in Trey Griffey, Samajie Grant, and Nate Phillips. This will make Dawkins job through the air a bit easier leaning on their experience to make plays. Despite the depth challenges, Arizona still looks to be a potential spoiler with an offense that is just starting to find their rhythm despite setbacks.
Arizona’s defense looks to be weaker than their offense. The secondary struggled in the second half of last week against the air happy Hawaii squad allowing them to put 28 points on the board. The defensive line does not stack up much better as an undersized squad but seems to be improving since week 1. Arizona lacks a defensive team leader that they had in Scooby Wright that will fire them up. If Arizona is going to stop a balanced Washington offense they will need to have some players step up and make some big plays. The defensive backs and linebackers do not seem to be effective tacklers at this point in time which could be a big problem for them with a dynamic runner like Myles Gaskin coming straight at them.
Special teams does not seem to be a strong point for Arizona either. Josh Pollack proves adequate in kicking and punting duties. However, returner Shun Brown muffed a punt last week. Arizona will not be able to afford those kind of mistakes if they want to beat the Huskies.
Now let’s talk about the big, bad Dawgs coming to the desert. Washington is looking to make a statement in their first Pac-12 game. With Stanford and Oregon looming in the distance, Washington needs to keep up the momentum with another win to stay on the hot list for the Rose Bowl or even BCS playoff. Since Washington has played all their games at home, it is hard to tell how Washington will adjust to their Pac-12 opponent on the road. The Huskies, however, have great coaching with Chris Petersen and his staff. The coaches are likely to prepare the Huskies for the challenge. Let’s break down what the Huskies bring to town in Tucson.
On the offensive side look for Jake Browning to light up the sky against Arizona’s soft secondary. If Browning can get off to a hot start it is unlikely Arizona will be able to keep up the score against the Huskies’ solid defense. With the competitive stakes raised, Myles Gaskin should see more snaps and perhaps finally break the 100 yard mark for the season. Though the Huskies’ offensive line is not the strongest in the Pac-12, a weaker Arizona defensive line should allow some holes to open up for some big gains. With Lavon Coleman’s performance last week, we may seem more opportunities for him as well to make some plays from the backfield. Receiving corps is back up to full strength now that Brayden Lenius’ suspension has ended. Browning will have his choice of targets in Ross, Pettis , McClatcher and now Lenius. The Huskies’ offense matches up well against Arizona and it’s very possible they will add quick points early and often in this game.
The defense for UW has been the heart of their lopsided victories this season. Look for the defensive line to go after Dawkins in a similar way they went after Alex Kuresa of Portland State from last week. Dawkins had over 200 yards passing and 100 yards rushing against Hawaii. Washington is not going to allow Dawkins to run free and get that many yards against them. When Dawkins puts the ball in the air he is likely to encounter strong coverage from Budda Baker, Sidney Jones, and Kevin King. Look for Elijah Qualls to disrupt plays penetrating the offensive line. Azeem Victor and Keishawn Bierria should cause more havoc this week and create some fumbles. The strong run game that Arizona showed last week is likely to be shut down by a physical squad. Chris Petersen wants to see the defense attack even more than they already have and I expect Coach Petersen to have these guys well prepared to play 4 quarters.
The special teams has been quiet the last two games. I think a repeat performance from game 1 is likely. Dante Pettis or John Ross seem overdue for another breakout touchdown run. Ross will get a few chances at returning the ball and he will likely get at least one big run against Rich Rod’s special team squad. The one bit of concern last week was Portland State getting awfully close to blocking several punts. The special teams this week for the Huskies will need to do more in protection to prevent a catastrophe. If there is one way the Huskies to lose this game it will be to turn the ball over. Special teams seems to be the most likely candidate for this occurrence.
If the Huskies continue their solid play then Arizona is unlikely to win this game. The only hope Arizona has for winning would be a remarkable breakout performance by Dawkins and/or Taylor combined with some turnovers on the Huskies side. Otherwise, I predict the Huskies will win again by a comfortable margin and immediately prepare for the Friday game versus Stanford. Let’s make our Husky Hype predictions for this Saturday.
Jake Browning lights up Arizona for 300 yards passing and 3 touchdowns.
Myles Gaskin finally has his first 100 yard game of the season.
Huskies score 2 interceptions and recover at least 1 fumble.
John Ross has at least one 50+ yard play.
Huskies hold Arizona to under 300 yards offense.
Huskies keep the streak alive with another 40+ point game.
Final Score Prediction: Huskies win 45-21