Pac-12 opener: 3 questions and a prediction for Arizona Wildcats vs. Washington Huskies

Posted at 2:20 PM, Sep 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-24 18:36:08-04

Ready or not, the Arizona Wildcats open conference play on Saturday against a team that some believe is the best in the Pac-12.

The 2-1 Wildcats will host the undefeated No. 9 Washington Huskies on Saturday night at Arizona Stadium. The home team has won the last eight games between these teams, with Washington embarrassing UA 49-3 last year.

Will the Cats extend that streak to nine games? Here are three questions and a prediction for that matchup, which begins Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks.

1. Can the Cats overcome injuries?

Arizona is in a bad way injury-wise heading into Saturday. Along with starting quarterback Anu Solomon and running back Nick Wilson unlikely to go, two of UA's defensive starters -- linebacker DeAndre' Miller and nose guard Parker Zellers -- will not play vs. Washington.

That's awful news as Huskies quarterback Jake Browning comes to town. The sophomore is by far the Pac-12's most efficient passer this season, as he's thrown 12 touchdowns and just one interception, and he threw five TDs in Washington's rout of UA last year. Can first-year defensive coordinator Marcel Yates cook up something to help prevent Browning from running roughshod over the Wildcats?

2. Will Dawkins deliver again?

What a difference a week made for Brandon Dawkins. Filling in for the injured Solomon, Dawkins was erratic at home against FCS opponent Grambling State two weeks ago before looking sharp through the air (16 of 21, 235 yards, TD) and on the ground (118 yards, three TDs) last weekend vs. an admittedly poor Hawaii defense.

The Wildcats will need a lot of the latter from the sophomore if they're going to hang with the Huskies. Will the inexperienced Dawkins be up to the challenge against a Husky defense that was second in the conference in pass efficiency defense last season?

3. Can Arizona get its ground game going?

Dawkins will need support from freshman tailback J.J. Taylor, who rushed for 168 yards and a touchdown in relief of Wilson last week. Taylor was spectacular against Hawaii, making a number of memorable runs, including this one.

Of course, that run came against a sub-par Hawaii defense. Washington was the second-best Pac-12 team against the run last year and is second so far this year, albeit against inferior competition.

If Taylor is the guy once again Saturday, will he be able to juke Husky defenders, or will the true freshman come crashing down to Earth?


Let's be clear on one point: Washington hasn't been tested this season. The Huskies have played Rutgers, Idaho and Portland State -- all at home -- and while they gave up just 30 combined points in those games, that's nothing to write home about. We just don't know who this team is yet.

We know a little more about Arizona, but most of what we know isn't good. The quarterback situation is unsettled, the offensive line has been erratic, the defense was embarrassed by the likes of Grambling State two weeks ago and, of course, the injuries have already begun to mount.

The home team has won the last eight games in this rivalry, and Arizona can beat just about anyone at home. But Saturday night's conference opener just seems like too big a hill to climb for RichRod's injury-plagued bunch. Look for the Huskies to escape Tucson with a win.

Washington 35, Arizona 24