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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

October 28, 2011 at 3:42 PM

The pick. …

Obviously a lot of major themes/questions to Saturday’s game against Arizona.

The most tangible may be that a win will make UW bowl eligible, and with seven guaranteed bowl slots in the Pac-12, the Huskies will definitely be going somewhere, likely the Holiday or the Sun based on how things sit now.

There’s also the less tangible aspect of injecting some enthusiasm back in the fan base about this season after the blowout loss at Stanford that delivered the harsh reality that the Huskies don’t appear ready yet for true contention in the Pac-12.

The most-watched aspect of the game, however, figures to be UW’s defense, again getting a lot of criticism after allowing 65 points and 615 yards to Stanford last week.

There’s been a lot said this week about the defense and coordinator Nick Holt and I’m not sure there’s a whole lot to add now.

Still, I thought I’d throw one more thing out there — comparing the yards UW has allowed to each opponent to that team’s current season average.

We are far enough along in the season now that numbers begin to take on some meaning. So let’s see what’s there:

Eastern Washington — Season average, 419.8; gained vs. UW, 504.
Hawaii — Season average, 442.8; gained vs. UW, 388.
Nebraska — Season average, 432.7; gained vs. UW, 464.
Cal — Season average, 429.0; gained vs. UW, 467.
Utah — Season average, 309; gained vs. UW, 322.
Colorado — Season average, 324.5; gained vs. UW, 269.
Stanford — Season average, 504.4; gained vs. UW, 615.

Obviously, each game has its own little vagaries that you could argue make some of the stats misleading — Utah gained a bunch of yards in garbage time, for instance. But that could also work the other way — Colorado had so many injuries by the time it played UW it wasn’t anything close to the team that piled up a bunch of yards in earlier games.

That’s why looking at all seven together may tell a little more. What we see is that five of UW’s seven opponents gained more than their season average; two gained less (Hawaii, which hardly felt like it at the time, and Colorado).

On average, teams are gaining 24 more yards per game against UW than their season averages.

The point isn’t just to pile on the UW defense some more. Instead, since we are nearing the time of year when teams, more often than not, start to perform as their numbers suggest — barring something unexpected such as an injury to a quarterback — the stats can start to give us a good idea of what we might see Saturday.

Arizona may be 2-5, but its offense is averaging 471 yards per game, thrid in the Pac-12. So if Arizona plays its average offensive game and UW its average defensive game, expect the Wildcats to get around 500 yards or so tomorrow night.

Obviously, the converse is true — UW’s offense is getting 421 yards per game and Arizona is allowing 464 per game. So the Huskies could get around 500 or so, as well.

Which means fans should buckle up and be prepared for a lot of yards and a long night (though having said all this, maybe now is when each team decides for once to play a little defense.)

Assuming there’s a lot of offense, the key will obviously be who can at least prevent the other from scoring easy touchdowns. That’s been Arizona’s problem at times this year as the Wildcats were held to 14 by Oklahoma State and 10 by Stanford, though the Wildcats have been better of late, scoring 41 at USC, 27 at Oregon State and then 48 against UCLA.

Arizona’s main offensive issue has been a running game that is 11th in the Pac-12 at 97.9 yards per game compared to UW’s, which is third at 173.4. In fact, that’s the biggest statistical difference between these two teams.

Ominously for UW, Arizona got the running game going last week against UCLA, rushing for 254 yards against the Bruins as interim coach Tim Kish tweaked the offense a bit, incorporating some Pistol looks, in an effort to get more yards on the ground.

The mention of Kish brings up another variable, that Arizona has seemed to respond as well as could have been hoped to the coaching change, while UW will have to again rally from a devestating defeat.

Being at home, though, always helps — UW is 12-4 at home under Steve Sarkisian and has won its last five at Husky Stadium. And in case you’ve forgotten, strange things often happen at Husky Stadium:

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And who knows how Arizona will respond to the elements, and if it can keep up the white-hot intensity if had for the UCLA game? As shaky as UW’s defense has been, expecting a 2-5 team that just fired its coach to win a game on the road seems just as dicey.

So I’ll call for lots of yards, lots of points and lots of heartburn for UW fans before they fan finally breathe a sigh of relief. WASHINGTON 38, ARIZONA 31.

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