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What: No. 9 Washington (3-0) vs. Arizona (2-1)
When: Today, 7:30 p.m., Tucson time
Where: Arizona Stadium
TV: Pac-12 Networks (Roxy Bernstein, Anthony Herron and Lewis Johnson)
Radio: IMG Network (Brian Jeffries and Lamont Lovett)
Line: Washington by 14 points
Previously this week at AllSportsTucson.com:
— The Vegas line shifted toward Washington all week
— Wilbur drawing update and Off-The-Beaten-Path Storylines
— Who has stood out so far this season for Arizona?
— Helmet sticker update: Game 3
— Arizona fans have spoken: Favorite QB to start against Washington is Brandon Dawkins
This game will determine…
If the Wildcats are prepared to take on the challenge that is ahead starting with No. 9 Washington in town. After playing the Huskies, Arizona travels to UCLA next week (Jim Mora has yet to lose to Rich Rodriguez) and to Utah the week after. The Wildcats then return to host USC before taking a week off. Stanford then comes to town. Rodriguez’s team must then travel to Washington State after that. If Arizona is routed tonight, it is conceivable to think Arizona could go on an 0-6 stretch. If Arizona puts up a fight, who knows? Beating UCLA is tough but Arizona has played Utah tough and USC is 1-3. If Arizona goes 3-3 over the next six games, that would actually be a step in the right direction for the Wildcats. …
Three things to look for:
1. How will Dawkins fare against Washington’s stingy defense? Will he survive? After Washington beat Idaho a couple of weeks ago, Washington defensive lineman Vea Vita said this: “We actually have a thing that we call ‘Death Row.’ We decided that when we step on the field we’re going to be the judge, prosecutor and executioner on that field. We try to step up to that motto on that field.” Dawkins was fed some cupcakes in Grambling State and Hawaii in the previous two weeks to prepare him for what’s ahead. Let’s see if he can stomach Washington’s defense that has at least six players projected to be taken in the 2017 NFL draft. Those players as listed by NFLDraftScout.com include safety Budda Baker (35th-best prospect overall), cornerback Sidney Jones (67th), linebacker Azeem Victor (95th), defensive tackle Elijah Qualls (163rd), cornerback Kevin King (166th) and defensive end/linebacker Joe Mathis (208th). That list does not include sophomore defensive lineman Greg Gaines and Vita, both of whom lead the Huskies in tackles for lost yardage.
2. Can Arizona manage good field position throughout? With Washington’s defense expected to perform well, it places an emphasis on the Wildcats’ punting and coverage unit to keep the Huskies from decent field position as much as possible. Josh Pollack has taken over the punting and field goal chores this season and he’s been effective. The sophomore is averaging 47.2 yards per punt. He has four punts for more than 50 yards in the first three games. He must have a similar performance tonight. Opponents are averaging 9.3 yards per punt return. Washington’s Dante Pettis averages 18.4 yards a return. That sets up an interesting battle within the game.
3. Can Arizona keep from turning the ball over? That’s another way Arizona will have a chance — if Washington turns it over more than the Wildcats do. Arizona did not turn the ball over last week against Hawaii. The Wildcats have yet to lose a fumble this season. Dawkins has yet to throw an interception in 50 attempts this season. He threw two last season against Arizona State. He did not throw a pick in his last eight passes against the Sun Devils, so he’s at 58 straight without making a mistake. If he gets through the game without an interception tonight, Arizona could be in a good shape. FYI, the Arizona record for fewest fumbles lost is five set in 2006, Mike Stoops‘ third season.
Arizona’s experienced receivers vs. Washington’s talented secondary: What coach in the Pac-12 wouldn’t want Samajie Grant, Nate Phillips and Trey Griffey? What coach wouldn’t want defensive backs Budda Baker, Kevin King and Sidney Jones? Phillips, Grant and Griffey combine for 29 catches for 383 yards. Jones has the lone interception among Washington’s pass defenders but that likely means opposing quarterbacks are trying to stay away from the coverage area of Baker and King.
By the numbers:
Arizona’s record against the spread since 2005 when it is a home underdog. Washington is favored by 14 points. The last time Arizona was a double-digit home dog was against Oregon in 2013 when the Ducks were favored by 18.5 points. The Wildcats pulled off the upset against the No. 5 Ducks with a 42-16 win.
Washington player to watch: WR John Ross
Ross is a game-changer with his speed and elusiveness, especially on kickoff returns. He has four kickoff returns for scores in his career, including one in the season-opener against Rutgers.
ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.