Washington (2-4) at Arizona (0-6)
7:30 p.m. Friday, Tucson, Ariz.
TV: ESPN2. Radio: SportsRadio 950 KJR.
Latest line: Huskies by 17.
UW key players
QB Dylan Morris: 60% completions, 1,446 passing yards, 8 pass TD, 8 INT, 2 rush TD
RB Kamari Pleasant: 229 rushing yards, 6.9 yards per carry, 52 receiving yards
LB Edefuan Ulofoshio: 51 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 1 pass breakup
OLB Zion Tupuola-Fetui: 13 tackles, 7 TFL, 7 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery (2020)
Arizona key players
QB Will Plummer: 50.7% completions, 380 passing yards, 2 TD, 3 INT, 19 rush yards
WR Stanley Berryhill III: 48 catches, 445 receiving yards, 1 TD, 63 rushing yards
LB Anthony Pandy: 44 tackles, 1 FF, 1 PBU
LB Treshaun Heyward: 34 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1 FR
The turnover ratio
After his team surrendered a pair of interceptions, while failing to force a single turnover in a 24-17 loss to UCLA, UW head coach Jimmy Lake said: “We talked about, over the bye week, making sure we’re trying to flip our turnover margin and making sure we’re protecting the football better and getting the ball back on defense. Unfortunately, we were not able to do that tonight.” For the most part, the Huskies haven’t been able to do it all season. Their turnover margin (-0.67) ranks 11th in the Pac-12, behind only the team it plays Friday, Arizona (-1.5). That’s due to a number of factors, including: UW’s disappointing run defense, which has failed to get opponents into obvious passing situations; its tepid pass rush, which has failed to force fumbles and poor throws; and UW quarterback Dylan Morris throwing eight interceptions, three more than any Pac-12 quarterback. And yet, UW will have another opportunity to flip its turnover margin against Arizona.
Finding the finish
UW is 1-3 in one-score games this season. Somewhat surprisingly, the Huskies have outscored their opponents 96-74 in the first three quarters, before being outscored 48-38 in the fourth. “You look at these first three games (in Pac-12 play), they could have gone either way,” Lake said after the loss to UCLA. “The Cal game could have gone either way. The Oregon State game could have gone either way. Tonight could have gone either way. It’s a slugfest going back and forth, and it’s been like that in the whole conference.” And yet, in the last several weeks, UW has not found a way to win those games. A go-ahead drive stalled when a quarterback sneak was stopped against Oregon State, and Morris underthrew wide receiver Jalen McMillan for a game-ending interception against UCLA. The Husky defense has repeatedly worn down as well. Against the statistically inferior and winless Arizona Wildcats, Washington needs to find a way to finish.
Trap game troubles
It would be easy to look past an 0-6 opponent that lost its last game 34-0, especially considering what immediately follows — a three-game stretch against Stanford, Oregon and Arizona State. The Wildcats have lost their last 18 games, dating back to the 2019 season. (Coincidentally, the team that kicked off that losing streak was Washington, which earned a 51-27 road win on Oct. 12, 2019.) So, yes, UW should absolutely beat Arizona on Friday night. But the Huskies have also proven that they can lose to absolutely anyone, with a season-opening 13-7 loss to FCS Montana providing proof. If UW’s focus drifts to Stanford — or if its players decide the 2021 season is essentially already over — the Wildcats might just steal a win.
Statistically, the Wildcats don’t really do anything well. In his first season at the helm, Jedd Fisch’s crew ranks 11th in the Pac-12 in rushing defense (196.7 yards allowed per game), 11th in opponent pass efficiency rating (148.26), 12th in yards per carry (3.27), 12th in pass efficiency rating (111.48), 12th in yards per pass attempt (5.9), 12th in scoring offense (14 points per game), 12th in scoring defense (32 points allowed per game) and 12th in turnover margin (-1.5). That’s a lot of lasts. Theoretically, UW should be able to run the ball (somewhat) against Arizona, while also stopping the run. Theoretically, UW should be able to find some explosive plays in the passing game, and its defense should be able to force a few takeaways as well. Theoretically, UW is clearly better than Arizona. But at this point, the Huskies have to prove it.
Final score: Huskies 31, Arizona 20