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October 28, 2011

Scouting report: Arizona at Washington

Matchup: Arizona Wildcats (1-4, 2-5) at Washington Huskies (5-2, 3-1)

Kickoff: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. (PST), Husky Stadium, Seattle

TV, radio: The game will air to a national audience on Fox Sports Net. Craig Bolerjack, Joel Klatt and Petros Papadakis will provide the commentary. It can be heard in Seattle on the radio on 950-AM KJR with Bob Rondeau doing the play-by-play, Damon Huard doing color commentary and Elise Woodward reporting from the sideline.

Coaches: Steve Sarkisian, Washington (third year); interim head coach Tim Kish , Arizona (first year).

Series: The Huskies lead the overall series, 17-9-1, including winning 10 of the past 16 meetings. Arizona has had two big wins over Washington in the past three years, winning by 30 points both last season and three seasons ago. In 2009, the Huskies pulled off a miracle victory when Husky linebacker Mason Foster intercepted a pass that deflected off the foot of an Arizona receiver and returned it for a game-winning touchdown.

About the Wildcats The Wildcats' offense is focused around quarterback Nick Foles, who is having an incredible season largely under the radar. He has led the Wildcats to the top passing offense in the Pac-12, averaging 373.1 yards per game through the air. He's had plenty of help with one of the nation's best receivers, senior Juron Criner, who had 1,233 yards receiving last year and is fourth in the conference this season averaging six catches per game. Their rushing attack is sometimes forgotten because they pass the ball so well, but UCLA learned last week that the Arizona offense has more balance than it appears. The Wildcats ran for 254 yards in that game while still passing for 319.

Until last week against UCLA, Arizona had given up 37 or more points in five consecutive games. That was with Bob Stoops as their head coach. Iin their first game under Kish is when the defense gave up just 12 points. It's difficult to tell whether the defensive success is a result of a weak UCLA offense, or a new-look defense under the new coach. Arizona ranks in the bottom three in the conference in rush defense, pass defense and scoring defense, putting the Wildcats dead last in total defense in the conference. The Wildcats defense also takes a hit against the Huskies because they will have four defensive backs suspended for at least part of the game due to their part in a fight during the game against UCLA. The biggest loss will be Shaq Richardson, who is second in the conference with three interceptions yet will miss the entire game.

About the Huskies: Before last week's debacle against Stanford, the Husky offense looked as good as any offense in the country. Quarterback Keith Price was near the top of nearly every statistical category and running back Chris Polk was dominating opposing defenses. Aside from two huge runs by Polk in the first half, the Husky offense was very unproductive, bringing up questions of how good the unit really is. Stanford clearly overmatched the Huskies in ways that most teams won't be able to do, so the Huskies should have short memories and come home ready to get back into rhythm. Price said this week that the offense tried to do too much to keep up with Stanford. That may happen again this week against a strong Wildcat offense, but playing at home should help. The Husky offense needs to get rolling early and be efficient, not relying on the big plays like last week. The offense is one of the best in the conference and with the deep list of threats the Huskies are going to score plenty of points.

Giving up 65 points to any team is surely going to be rough on a defense, but giving up that many points to Stanford does give the Huskies a little more room to stay positive. Nonetheless, the defense didn't even put up a fight against the Cardinal last week allowing 446 yards on the ground.

Defensive coordinator Nick Holt has taken a lot of heat this week and has said he's going to get things right, but that he has a lot of young guys on defense.

Comparatively, though, the Huskies aren't that young: Six of the 11 starters are upper classmen for Washington. The defense hasn't done much right this season on a consistent basis. The Huskies don't stop the run or the pass and it's killed them. Look for them to improve over last week, but against a tough passing attack, the secondary could be in trouble again.

What to expect: Both teams come in with high-powered offenses and defenses that have given up too many yards and too many points. The Husky defense has been just good enough at stopping opponents from scoring that they have a strong record through seven games. This game should be high scoring and being in Husky Stadium, the Huskies should hold the advantage. Look for the Husky defense to make a few key stops or force a few turnovers to win this one at home.

UDubNation.com pick: Washington 44-31

Follow UDubNation's Mitchell Larsen on Twitter @MLarsen_Rivals


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