The college football season comes to a close this weekend with a Pac-12 showdown between the Arizona Wildcats and Washington Huskies. Kickoff is scheduled for 11:00 EST on Saturday, October 12 at Arizona Stadium in Tucson. Fans can find the game on FS1.
Based on the Week 7 college football odds, Washington is a 6.5-point favorite on the road. The over/under for the contest is set at 59 points.
The Huskies were knocked out of the top-25 after last week’s disappointing loss to Stanford. It was already Washington’s second Pac-12 loss of the season, giving their conference title hopes a huge blow and ending any hope of making a run at the College Football Playoff. The good news is that four of the six teams in the Pac-12 North already have two conference losses. However, the Huskies are still going to need to win out and get some help if they’re going to defend their Pac-12 title.
Obviously, that means this week’s game in Arizona is a must-win for Washington. The Huskies also want to avoid getting ahead of themselves with a showdown against Oregon on tap for next week. That game against Oregon isn’t going to mean anything unless the Huskies can take care of business on the road this week.
Arizona, meanwhile, is moving in the opposite direction, riding a four-game winning streak. The Wildcats could be undefeated right now if they had started the season with a loss to Hawaii. However, Kevin Sumlin’s team has responded with wins against Texas Tech, UCLA, and Colorado. Arizona’s two Pac-12 wins have come by five points or less. But they managed to pull out the win in both games and are now the only team in the Pac-12 South that’s unbeaten in league play.
The obvious caveat is that all of Arizona’s most difficult games are still ahead of them. They have road trips to USC and Stanford to close out October and will finish the season with three straight games against teams that are currently ranked, including two more road games. Given the difficulty of their schedule the second half of the season, the Wildcats better be able to hold serve at home if they want to stay ahead of the pack in the South division.
The Wildcats are also in search of their first win over Washington since 2014. In fairness, these teams haven’t played each other the past two seasons. However, the Huskies were triumphant in both 2015 and 2016 and will be looking to extend their winning streak over Arizona to three games.
My faith in Washington is fading quickly and I don’t feel comfortable taking them as a road favorite. This has turned out to be more of a transition year than the Huskies were expecting. I also think Arizona has figured some things out and responded after that disappointing loss to Hawaii. At this point, I could see this game going either way, which is why I favor taking Arizona and the points at home.
Despite a few promising performances against inferior teams, something just isn’t right with the Washington offense this year. They’ve averaging just 20 points per game in their three Pac-12 games, which doesn’t fill me with confidence for a road game against an underrated Arizona defense. I started to believe in quarterback Jacob Eason, but he’s been too inconsistent this year. Even in the win over USC, he threw for less than 200 yards without a touchdown. Last week, he looked befuddled against Stanford, completing less than 50% of his passes.
The Arizona defense, meanwhile, has settled down after some early-season struggles. Even the 30 points they gave up on the road against Colorado last week isn’t that bad. The Wildcats dug in when they needed to and forced the Buffs to settle for some field goals. Given Eason’s accuracy issues the past couple of games, I can see the Washington offense having to settle for field goals and struggling to find the end zone.
It’s actually on the other side of the ball where I’m most concerned with Washington. The Huskies have gotten gashed on the ground the last two weeks. First, they gave up over 200 rushing yards in their win over USC. Last week, they gave up 189 rushing yards against a Stanford team that has struggled to run the ball this year. Stanford backup quarterback David Mills also had a strong outing, completing 21 of 30 passes against the Huskies.
After that performance, I’m not a huge fan of how the Washington defense will match up against the Arizona offense. The Wildcats were able to beat UCLA with both quarterback Khalil Tate and running back J.J. Taylor sitting out due to injury. Tate returned last week and will be a menace for the Huskies both on the ground and through the air. Taylor is less of a certainty to play this week after he had just one carry last week. But the Arizona rushing game is averaging over five yards per carry on the season, so I think the Wildcats will have success on the ground no matter who carries the ball.
If I’m being honest, I don’t have a strong feeling in this game one way or the other. But I have enough doubts about Washington to make me think twice about picking them as road favorites. Plus, at his best, Tate is one of the most dynamic dual-threat quarterbacks in the country. He should be able to keep the Wildcats in the game and allow Arizona to at least beat the spread.