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Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Seasons on the brink for Arizona, Washington?

By Ted Miller

Neither Arizona nor Washington is going to have a great season. But the winner of their game Saturday still could have a good season.

The loser? Prospects will be considerably dimmer.

Both are 3-3. The Huskies own the lone conference win between the two, a home game upset over Stanford, who the Wildcats lost to on the road in overtime.

Both team have a quality win -- the Wildcats beat Oklahoma State. Both teams got whipped by Oregon. And, in fact, all their loses came to ranked teams.

"We're a 3-3 football team, and we consider this halftime," Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian said. "We've got to come out and play the second half of football with a real sense of urgency."

He could be speaking for both teams.

It was clear in the preseason the Huskies would be challenged by their first-half schedule. Their bowl hopes now hinge on stepping up to the easier slate ahead, though "easier" isn't as easy as it appeared in August. For one, there are four road dates. Second, Oregon State now provides a fifth team that is or has been ranked in the top-10 this season.

The Wildcats schedule is no picnic either. They are the only Pac-12 team that will play all four of the conference teams that are presently ranked -- Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford and USC -- as well as dates with Arizona State and UCLA, which are a combined 10-3.

Both teams are banged up, losing multiple starters to injury. The Wildcats are coming off a bye, but coach Rich Rodriguez wasn't encouraged that it provided enough of a break for his team to heal, saying, "We probably needed more time."

If there is a difference between the teams, it's that Arizona has been fairly predictable, the Huskies have not.

In the preseason, it looked like Matt Scott would be a nice fit for Rodriguez's offense, and that was true. The Wildcats offense has been potent, averaging 37 points and 554 yards per game.

And it looked like the defense would be outmanned. That's proven true also. It gives up 32.7 points and 480.5 yards per game.

“Most of the things that we struggled with or had problems with were not surprising," Rodriguez said. "It wasn’t anything that was really surprising, positive or negative, particularly negative. Some issues we had, we knew we had coming in. Then, you get a few guys banged up or hurt it kind of magnifies that."

The Huskies have been surprisingly stout on defense and surprisingly bad on offense, particularly throwing the football. The Huskies rank 10th in in the conference in scoring, 11th in total offense and 12th in passing offense.

It was thought that junior quarterback Keith Price, in his second year as a starter, would be able to overcome some key personnel losses from 2011. He hasn't.

Of course, part of that could be the opposition. The Huskies, with a rebuilt offensive line, have played four defenses ranked among the top-35 in the nation.

"I do know then when you look at four of our last five games, we have gone against some really good fronts," Sarkisian said. "I am going to hold judgement on thes young guys and how they look and their potential and their capabilities down the road, because you look at LSU, you look at Stanford, you look at Oregon and you look at USC, those are pretty good fronts."

And Arizona isn't so good up front. This could be a big opportunity for the Huskies offense to get on track. It probably needs to. Because the resurgent UW defense will be challenged by Scott, running back Ka'Deem Carey and a strong crew of receivers.

It feels like there's a line in the sand in Tucson. The winning team will step over that line and entertain possibilities. The loser will get left behind.