Desperation is the name of the game for the Washington Huskies and the Arizona Wildcats as they clash in Tucson on Saturday. Both squads are 3-3 and could use a solid win to start the second half of the year.
As such, we're taking a look from the Husky perspective with Anthony Cassino of UW Dawg Pound. Let's just say the conversation is more civil than anything that will go down at Sun Devil Stadium tonight. And we thank you for that, Anthony.
I asked the questions, and he gave us his thoughts on Keith Price's woes, another guy named Shaq, and how he thinks the game will pan out.
1) 3-3 probably is a disappointing record from your standpoint, but the schedule hasn't been too kind to either of these two teams. How do you feel about where the Huskies are so far this year?
I think for the Huskies, 3-3 is about where we had expected this team to be. You look at the losses, and all three of them are to teams that are currently in the top 10, and it was always known that winning any one of those three would be a pretty sizable upset. Stanford was the one game that people thought was most winnable, and that proved true. With all the injuries this team has sustained, 3-3 is a pretty good spot to be in at the halfway point with a much easier second half schedule.
2) What's the biggest difference that has led to this year's team being less explosive offensively? Reading around, it appears that it's really not Keith Price's doing rather than what's around him.
The biggest problem with this year's squad has been the offensive line. Since the end of last season, 4 players who were going to be starters have been lost to injury, so they're basically trotting out a second string offensive line every week. The only guy who has started prior to this season is center Drew Schaefer. It has been a rough learning curve for those guys, and the coaching staff has been scrambling trying to mix and match and find a combination that works.
Price has been down, and it's hard to say if it's him or what's around him, but like pretty much everything he answers is probably that it's a little of both. In addition to the OL, he's also missing WR James Johnson who would have been one of his top targets, and there's almost no depth at all at RB. But he's also missed some throws that it seems like he would have made last season.
3) It felt like UW running back Chris Polk had been running over the Pac-10/12 competition forever. Now, he's finally gone. What's in his place and how capable is the Washington run game?
Bishop Sankey has taken the reins at RB, and he's doing a pretty good job back there (three 100 yard games in three Pac-12 contests). The problem is that the injury bug hit the backfield as well. Deontae Cooper was probably going to be the #3 back heading into this season, but tore an ACL in August. Jesse Callier -- who has been Polk's backup the last couple years -- was the 1a to Sankey's one, but he tore an ACL in the opener against San Diego State.
Sankey is a solid Pac-12 back, but he doesn't have the size to be able to run the ball 30 times a game if the Huskies need him to, and there's not much behind him right now.
4) Washington's defense looked rock solid against Stanford and even in a loss to USC, from the look of things, held for the most part. Does Arizona's offense pose more of a threat to go off like the Huskies' game against the Oregon Ducks, or do you think it's capable of holding Arizona down?
I think it's somewhere in the middle. It sure looks like the Washington defense is better equipped to stop a more traditional attack than a spread, but then again they've seen more pro style so far this season. I was very impressed with how the UW secondary defended USC, and think that they can make some plays if Arizona tries to air it out as they did against Stanford.
The Oregon game certainly wasn't good, but the offense and special teams didn't do the defense any favors and made it look a lot worse than it was. I think that having played Oregon already will definitely help with adjusting to Arizona's attack, but I expect Arizona to move the ball a little bit.
5) Who are one or two players that Arizona fans probably don't know about but should?
Feeney is a guy who kind of surprised a little bit by earning a starting spot in the preseason. He had been a safety, got moved to linebacker in August and a couple weeks later was making plays on Saturday. He's rangy and quick, and is one of those guys who is always around the ball. If they get into any of their bigger defensive packages, they like to line him up as a safety.
Thompson is a little bit more well known because he was so highly sought out of high school, and he hasn't disappointed. He's a freak athlete, and the UW staff has had to find creative ways to get him onto the field because he's just too talented to have on the sidelines. He's officially listed as the starting nickel, but they'll line him up as a linebacker, a safety, or on the line of scrimmage as well.
6) These two teams have had somewhat similar seasons thus far, although I'm sure you'd agree that Washington had much higher expectations coming in. How do you see this game playing out, and how important is it on a scale for 1-10 that the Huskies pull off the road win?
I like UW's chances in this one, but I think it'll be a game that's decided in the fourth quarter. If the Huskies can put some points on the board they have a great shot, because the defense is going to make it's share of plays and give them a chance. If Keith Price turns the ball over one of fewer times, I'll take the Huskies by two scores.
On the importance scale, we'll call this a 7. This is one of those terrible years where the Huskies have 5 Pac-12 road games, so they've got to find a way to win some of them if they want to see the postseason. They also need to start the second half strong, and if they lose this game with Oregon State looming large next weekend, a 3-5 record might not be something that they can bounce back from to get bowl eligible.