Washington State looks to become bowl eligible when it hosts Arizona for some #Pac12AfterDark action on Friday night. The Cougars (5-5, 4-3) are coming off of a loss at Oregon that knocked them out of the Pac-12 North race but can secure a postseason berth and build up some momentum heading into the Apple Cup against Washington with a win at home over the Wildcats.
Arizona (1-9, 1-6) has just one win on the season but has been competitive in four straight games. Besides defeating California 10-3 a couple of weeks ago, the Wildcats lost to the aforementioned Huskies by just five points and to USC on the road by seven, and then they hung with Utah for most of the game last Saturday before a late Utes touchdown made the final score 38-29.
These teams have split their last three meetings, with the home team winning each time. The most recent matchup was in 2018, a 69-28 rout by Washington State in Pullman.
Arizona at Washington State
Kickoff: Friday, Nov. 19 at 9 p.m. ET
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Spread: Washington State -14
When Arizona Has the Ball
Offense has been an issue all season long for the Wildcats under first-year head coach Jeff Fisch, but he has seen his team score 73 points over the past three games compared to 100 total in the first seven. Arizona posted a season-high 339 passing yards in the seven-point loss to USC on Oct. 30 and followed that up with a season-best 202 yards on the ground in defeating Cal. It was more of a mixed bag against Utah last Saturday (227 passing, 102 rushing), but it was still just the third game all season that the Wildcats averaged better than five yards per play against an FBS opponent (USC, BYU the others).
Will Plummer has brought some stability to the quarterback position, but he's not going to beat teams with his arm. He's thrown twice as many interceptions (seven) as touchdowns (three) this season and is averaging just 5.6 yards per pass attempt.
Plummer also has led the team in rushing each of the past two games with 118 yards and a touchdown in that span. But that kind of highlights the issue Arizona has had in this department. The Wildcats are averaging 157.1 rushing yards per game in conference play, which ranks them sixth, but they have a total of six touchdowns on the ground in these seven contests.
If there's been one bright spot for this offense, it's been the consistent play of wide receiver Stanley Berryhill III. He's second in the Pac-12 in both receptions (68) and receptions per game (6.8) and is already in the school's top 10 for catches in a single season. He also leads the team in all-purpose yards, as he's chipped in more than 100 both rushing (121) and on punt returns (133).
When Washington State Has the Ball
Statistically speaking, the Cougars are averaging roughly the same yardage as Arizona in conference games. Washington State is putting up 368 yards per Pac-12 contest compared to the Wildcats' 354. The big contrast in how each team gets their yards comes via the air.
With Jayden de Laura leading the way, Wazzu is second only to USC in passing offense (263.3 ypg). What's more, de Laura by himself has 15 touchdown passes in six conference games while Arizona's quarterbacks have combined for four (to go along with 12 interceptions) in their seven matchups. He does need to be willing to take what the defense will give him, however, as four of de Laura's nine interceptions this season have come in the last three games.
Senior wide receivers Travell Harris (62 rec.) and Calvin Jackson Jr. (53) are third and fourth, respectively, in the Pac-12 in receptions and have combined for 12 touchdowns grabs. On the ground, Max Borghi and Deon McIntosh have teamed up to produce more than 1,000 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground.
On paper, Arizona's and Washington State's defenses are similar. In conference games, only three points separate the two in terms of points allowed per game (30.3 vs. 27.0), and they are both giving up 5.8 yards per play. The differences lie on the other side of the ball, where the Cougars have been more consistent on offense and have a big edge when it comes to quarterback and skill position talent. The Wildcats have been playing much better over the last month but don't have enough firepower to hang with Wazzu on its home field. The Cougars punch their postseason ticket with a win on Friday night.
Prediction: Washington State 38, Arizona 23
Podcast: Week 12 Predictions + Picks Against the Spread, CFB Playoff Rankings, and the Latest in Coaching Searches