Arizona enters the second half of the 2023 season like it ended the first half, with a road game against a ranked opponent as the Wildcats (3-3, 1-2 Pac-12) visit the 19th-ranked Washington State Cougars (4-1, 1-1).
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, Arizona is an 8-point underdog. Who takes this matchup? Here’s what our staff thinks.
Kim Doss — Washington State wins 31-28
I picked Arizona to lose this one before the season started and I will stick with that. I do think the Wildcats have the ability to upset one of the teams during this stretch of stronger opponents, but I think they have a better shot to do that at home against Oregon State after the bye.
If Jayden de Laura starts in this one, he’s shown nothing this year to make me think he’s over the pressing-too-hard thing he did against his former team last year. Making that claim would be based on the desire to believe rather than anything he’s actually done on the field this year.
The Wildcats have a solid shot at an upset, but I think they’ll come up a bit short. They still haven’t scored over 24 points against a Power 5 team without going to three overtimes. They have definitely not done so in a JDL start. So, expecting 28 points from them in this one is giving them the benefit of the doubt that they are an improved team. Expecting them to hold Wazzu nine points under its season average is also acknowledging that the defense is much improved. Projecting them to win is a step further. I don’t think they’re at that point yet.
Ezra Amacher — Washington State wins 37-30
With Jayden de Laura expected to return Saturday, I foresee Arizona taking a frustrating step back. A season ago de Laura committed four interceptions against his former team. I hope the number isn’t as high this year, but a few costly mistakes feels inevitable. Also, WSU is coming off a rough loss to UCLA and will be plenty desperate to get back in the win column to keep its Pac-12 title game hopes alive. With that said, I hope Arizona proves me wrong.
Brandon Combs — Arizona wins 35-20
Arizona has never really had much success in Pullman. This year seems different though. The ‘Cats went toe-to-toe with Washington and smacked USC in the mouth by taking them to triple overtime, though they couldn’t quite close it out. What’s more, these performances weren’t gimmicky or feel like the opponents had a down day. Arizona has a solid defense and the offense is starting to come alive under Noah Fifita.
Wazzu, on the other hand, showed some weaknesses against UCLA. The offensive line isn’t as solid as originally thought. Cameron Ward didn’t look as sharp as he had all season. UCLA did a great job of causing him chaos, and it’s one thing Arizona has shown, they can cause chaos with the best of them in the conference. Defensively, the Cougars have been solid, but I believe that Arizona has the advantage due to the offensive line.
Overall, I think Arizona’s pass rush will be too much. And I think the pass blocking will hold against the Cougar rush. And Arizona will win in Pullman for the first time since 2014.
Adam Green — Arizona wins 27-20
This feels like it could go one of two ways. The first, and most preferable, is that Arizona builds on what it did the last two weeks in close losses and finally breaks through against a team that is good, but not as good as what they’ve recently faced.
The second, which is a strong possibility, is that the Cats are mentally and physically spent after two close battles against top-ten teams and can’t bring themselves to play well in Pullman.
Which will happen? Let’s say the first. Arizona has proven itself to have a solid defense and the offense has begun to show signs of life. That may be due to the change at QB, and if Noah Fifita gets another start you’d have to feel pretty good. At the same time, if Jayden de Laura is healthy enough to start the expectation is he will, and while he struggled against his former team in their meeting last year the bet here is that he’ll play well in the rematch.
Either way, Arizona has the look of a team that is finding its stride and will finally start to see results on the scoreboard. Expect the Cats to come away with an upset.
Devin Homer — Arizona wins 31-28
Coming off a triple overtime loss to USC, Arizona will look to get back to winning at hopes at making a bowl game this year. Whether Jayden de Laura comes back or Noah Fifita makes his third career start Arizona will have a shot at pulling the upset.
On the defensive side of the ball, UA’s defense will look to get their first interception of the season and through six games they are due. If they win the turnover battle they will have a good shot at winning on the road.
Brian J. Pedersen — Arizona wins 24-21
This game has all the makings for a huge letdown for Arizona, having just taken USC to triple overtime on the road after going the distance with Washington the week before. There’s a bye after this, and it would be easy to look ahead to that time off and not be totally focused in this one.
Or this could be the chance to pull off an upset, like the Wildcats did last year at UCLA on the back end of consecutive road games against ranked opponents. I’m leaning in that direction, and that’s without knowing for certain who will be the starting quarterback.
If Arizona truly has started to turn the corner toward being a winning program, pulling this one out is a big step in that direction. If it’s not competitive in this one, that could be bad for the rest of this season.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.