As I said in the Morning Haul, a hectic schedule this week/weekend has forced me to just post a quick prediction rather than an exhaustive breakdown of Arizona as a team. I’ll be back to normal starting Monday.
Arizona has an incredibly talented offense that has been productive against elite defenses, except against Oregon, when they hung up a big fat zero. Washington’s offense has struggled mightily throughout the season, and Keith Price has failed to take care of the football at the most important times. That information right there is what is making so many people pick Arizona to win this one.
I think that is a little shortsighted. It is foolish to ignore the fact that Arizona’s defense is ranked 98th in the nation in scoring, and gives up an average of 32.7 points per game. That is terrible. The Husky defense hasn’t been elite as of late, but when you consider the fact that four of the six games Washington has played has come against teams that were, at some point, ranked in the top-10 in the nation leads me to believe that the average of 25.8 points allowed per game is a little inflated by level of competition.
So, if Washington having a bad offense and Arizona having a great offense is a reason for the Huskies to lose, shouldn’t Arizona having an ugly defense and Washington having a pretty damn good one matter as well?
Specifically, if you delve into the specifics, I think the Huskies benefit even more. Matt Scott, the senior quarterback of the Wildcats, is the focal point of the offense. The Husky defense backs, however, are the strength of the defense. We may not have fared well against the power running of LSU or the stupid fast run option of Oregon, but we sure made Matt Barkley look pretty human last week. Why would Matt Scott be able to put up terrific numbers? The Husky defensive backs will force him to make mistakes, and I don’t see him having one of his 400+ yard games, not even at home.
September 29, 2012; Tucson, AZ, USA; Arizona Wildcats quarterback Matt Scott (10) warms up before a game against the Oregon State Beavers at Arizona Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-US PRESSWIRE
As for Arizona’s defensive ineptitude, I think the Huskies win here as well. Keith Price has been pretty mediocre this year, and last game was no exception because of the four turnovers, two interceptions and two fumbles. But at times Price got himself into a rhythm that had not been seen in weeks, and if it weren’t for those turnovers, it would have been seen as real progress. Well, USC’s defense is one of the best in the conference, and the nation, at forcing turnovers. Arizona’s defense is 63rd in the nation in interceptions and 32nd in forced fumbles recovered. Those aren’t horrible stats, but they are not a unit that specializes in taking the ball away. So, they give up a lot of points, and don’t do a great job of making plays. To me, that sets things up nicely for a possible breakthrough game for Price (and by breakthrough I just mean good. 250+ yards, more touhdowns than picks, etc) and another 100 yard game for Sankey.
So, all that considered, this game is on the road. We haven’t seen Washington play well on the road once this year, but that has a lot to do with both of those road games being against Oregon and LSU. It may not be easy, but I see the Huskies taking this one.
Washington 33, Arizona 28