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Arizona-Washington features two of nation’s best quarterbacks

But one team’s passing game is looking better than the other’s lately

arizona-washington-khalil-tate-jacob-eason-quarterbacks-preview-highlights-nfl-draft Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

If you like to watch top-flight quarterbacks, Saturday’s game between the Arizona Wildcats and Washington Huskies is for you.

Arizona’s Khalil Tate (8) and UW’s Jacob Eason (11) both rank highly in Pro Football Focus’ most recent national QB rankings.

Tate has completed 81 of 120 (67%) of his passes for 1,088 yards, nine touchdowns and five interceptions. He is averaging 8.1 yards per attempt, capable of slinging the ball down field with ease.

And while he is not the same running threat he was in 2017—and is just coming back from a hamstring injury—he is still absurdly quick, rushing for an 84-yard touchdown against Texas Tech last month.

“I mean, he is something else,” UW coach Chris Petersen said Monday at his weekly press conference. “He really is. He can run like nobody I’ve seen in quite a long time playing quarterback. He creates a lot of issues with his feet and has a really strong arm. He can sit on his back foot and throw it 60 yards down the field, or he can scramble around and flick it across the field. It’s all that kind of stuff. So they do a good job of that up-tempo, using his legs in the run game, and then if you cover things he’s really, really dangerous.”

Eason, a transfer from Georgia who was once the No. 5 prospect in the 2016 recruiting class, has completed 66 percent of his passes for 1,449 yards, 11 touchdowns and three interceptions.

A projected first-round pick, the junior won’t knife through defenses on the ground—he has three rushing yards all season (including sacks)—but his wicked arm strength can stretch Arizona’s secondary and expose them if they have any lapses in coverage.

The Wildcats have allowed some big numbers through the air this year, ranking 11th in the Pac-12 in opponent passing yards per game (336.2). Part of the problem has been an inconsistent pass rush. They have only generated four sacks all season, five fewer than the next Pac-12 team.

“It stresses me out,” Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin said of Eason’s arm strength. “I’ve seen it for a long time. He’s an extremely talented guy. He’s bigger than what you think. It’s hard to get him on the ground. He’s a strong-armed guy and a big, talented guy. He’s a problem for us because of his talent level and his experience. What happened last week (with Colorado quarterback Steven Montez), you saw an experienced quarterback make some extremely good plays … and not turn it over.”

That said, these two aerial attacks have been heading into different directions. Tate is coming off a career day against Colorado in which he threw for a career-high 404 yards and three touchdowns.

Eason went 16 for 36 for 206 yards, a touchdown and an interception last week in a loss at Stanford. The defense he faced was much tougher than the one Tate saw in Boulder, but those conference struggles aren’t new for Eason.

The week before, he went 16 for 26 for 180 yards in a win over USC. In Week 2, he went 18 for 30 for 162 yards and an interception in a loss to Cal.

“That’s a good question,” Petersen said after the Stanford game when asked about UW’s passing struggles. “Dropped balls. Have to give our quarterback a couple more answers, too. A couple times he was standing back there with no answers. Couple that with protection stuff and he was running around, a couple guys didn’t make plays for him.”