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Arizona Wildcats vs. Washington Huskies Preview and Prediction

Rich Rodriguez

Rich Rodriguez

Both Arizona and Washington stand at a crossroads ahead of their Week 9 meeting in Seattle. 

Chris Petersen

After scoring a signature win for second-year head coach Chris Petersen Oct. 8 at USC, Washington dropped back-to-back contests to Pac-12 North counterparts Oregon and Stanford. With the losses, the Huskies are 1-3 in conference play and 3-4 overall, with the very real threat of missing the postseason for the first time since 2009. 

A win over Arizona, which hasn't left Husky Stadium victorious since 2007, is crucial to Washington's bowl aspirations. 

Similarly, Arizona dug two separate, deep holes at home against Washington State before a late rally resulted in a three-point loss. Though the Wildcats are 5-3 on the season, a brutal November awaits Rich Rodriguez' team. With games at USC, vs. Utah and at Arizona State finishing out the Wildcats' regular season, sewing up bowl eligibility Saturday may be their best course of action.

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Arizona at Washington

Kickoff: 11 p.m. ET


Spread: Washington -5

Three Things to Watch

1. Quarterback Controversies

It's somewhat rare for teams to have quarterback controversies this late into a season, but both Arizona and Washington face such situations in Week 9. 

Washington's is the result of freshman Jake Browning sustaining a shoulder injury late against Oregon, which forced K.J. Carta-Samuels into the starting lineup last week against Stanford. 

The controversy for Washington is less who is playing quarterback, but rather how effective the offense is in general. The Huskies are dead-last in the Pac-12 in both yards and points scored, struggling to find any kind of sustained rhythm with either quarterback. 

Arizona, on the other hand, has put up points in bunches. Lately, it's happened more frequently with reserve quarterback Jerrard Randall running the show than with last year's breakout star Anu Solomon. 

Randall came on to lead critical scoring drives in the win at Colorado, then engineered Arizona's second-half comeback a week ago against Washington State. 

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Head coach Rich Rodriguez has been mum on the quarterback situation for Arizona heading into Washington, though the position appears to be fluid based on the last few weeks. 

2. Dictating an Early Tone

In Arizona's Pac-12 wins over Oregon State and Colorado, the Wildcats jumped ahead by multiple scores early. Against UCLA, Stanford and Washington, Arizona fell behind by two scores in the first quarter. 

While last year's Cardiac 'Cats made a habit of rallying and winning tight games, the 2015 Wildcats are simply not as well-equipped to come back from big deficits, primarily due to holes in the defense caused by injury. 

Washington isn't the type of team to jump out to a big lead early with offensive haymakers. Rather, the Huskies can impose their will physically with a hard-hitting defense. 

Washington scored its upset of USC by stymieing the Trojan offense from the outset, forcing USC to press each time it got the ball back. The hurry-up nature of Arizona's offense can be a detriment if points aren't coming, as it puts an already-thin defense on the field after shorter rests. 

As time of possession mounts, that's when the flood gates can open on the Wildcats. 

3. Arizona's Passing Efficiency 

The Arizona offense in 2014 flourished with a balance of run and pass, which is Rodriguez's goal when Solomon is lined up behind center. That's not quite as feasible with Randall at quarterback, despite the pop he brings to the Wildcats. 

Randall's passing is erratic, which can render Arizona one-dimensional. That one dimension is quite effective — the Wildcats ranks No. 9 nationally in rushing yards per game — but a run-based attack may struggle against Washington. 

With linebacker Travis Feeney leading the charge, the Huskies run defense holds opponents to just 3.2 yards per carry, exactly half of Arizona's average output per rush. 

Arizona must be able to spread the field with the threat of an effective pass, and not just on screen passes to Nate Phillips and Samajie Grant. 

Final Analysis

Arizona cannot stop anyone defensively, and Washington cannot score. It's an interesting juxtaposition that makes for an intriguing matchup of two teams desperate for a win. 

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Arizona sports a three-game losing streak at Husky Stadium, which includes a 2009 contest decided on a Washington pick-six that bounced off Wildcat wide receiver Juron Criner's foot. 

Strange things happen when these teams meet in Seattle, and it goes both ways. Willie Tuitama threw for 510 yards and Arizona rallied in the fourth quarter to win there in 2007, 48-41, and Ortege Jenkins' front-flip touchdown in 1998 is perhaps the most iconic play in Arizona football history. 

With the clash of styles and unpredictable nature of both the Wildcats and Huskies this time around, expect another installment decided under unusual circumstances.

Prediction: Arizona 31, Washington 30

— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Kensing is publisher of Follow him on Twitter @kensing45.