Every week, we take a look at some of the statistics and numbers underlying our upcoming match-up. With the Arizona Wildcats' upcoming game against the Washington Huskies, we took a look at the numbers underlying this match-up and Arizona's odds of making a bowl game.
A couple of days ago, I did some back of the napkin calculations and figured that Arizona has a little better than 50/50 shot of making a bowl game. The idea is that Arizona only needs to win one game to secure bowl eligibility, so as long as the Wildcats don't lose every game remaining, they make a bowl game. Even if Arizona is only 25% to beat Washington, 10% to beat USC, 10% to beat Utah, and 20% to beat Arizona State, the team still makes a bowl game more than 50% of the time.
Making a bowl game about 50% of the time shouldn't make Arizona fans feel great, though. The Wildcats will be an underdog in every game they play for the rest of the season, and if they lose to Washington, the odds of making a bowl game fall to about 35% (using those rough estimates above). This is Arizona's best opportunity to pick up that much-needed sixth win.
Maybe I'm being pessimistic, though. Bill Connelly's S&P+ gives Arizona a 30.2% chance of winning on Saturday. That's better than I expected. Unsurprisingly, S&P+ ranks the Huskies (49th) ahead of the Wildcats (68th), but the difference isn't that big, and Arizona has a reasonable chance of winning this game on the road.
To win this game, Arizona needs to move the ball against the Washington defense. Given all I've heard about the Huskies' defense, I thought I'd look up their total defense numbers. Washington gives up 364.3 yards per game, which is 45th best in the country. That doesn't seem that great, right?
Well, we play in the Pac-12, so the rules are different. Only one Pac-12 team - the Stanford Cardinal - ranks ahead of Washington in total defense, and we know how that game went. Arizona has a great offense, and even when Anu Solomon has struggled, they've been able to rack up yards, but the Wildcats may have trouble moving the ball against Washington on Saturday.
115th and 108th
On the other side of the ball, woof. Washington is ranked 115th in the country in total offense. Arizona, meanwhile, is ranked 108th in total defense, but that ranking is probably inflated by the fact that the Wildcats didn't play any Power 5 teams during their non-conference schedule. On Saturday, then, we will see a bad Washington offense try to attack a struggling Arizona defense. What happens when a stoppable force meets a movable object? We'll find out when the Huskies' offense takes the field.
It took a while for Vegas to come up with a line for this game, but eventually Washington opened up as a 4.5 point favorite. That's a pretty fair line that reflects: (1) the fact that Washington is slightly better than Arizona, and (2) the fact that the Huskies are at home. That spread also shows that Vegas thinks Arizona is about 35% to win. I can live with those odds.
This is Arizona's best chance is win a game and secure bowl eligibility. They face a bad offense that might be unable to take advantage of Arizona's issues on defense. If the offense can execute and the defense is able to at least occasionally hold up, Arizona has a shot at winning this game, even on the road.