WSU travels to Tucson to face an Arizona team that's a bit tough to get a read on - the Wildcats have easily handled the teams they were supposed to beat while getting hammered by a couple of pretty good teams.
The Cougs don't fall neatly into either of those categories; they're certainly not as bad as Oregon State or Nevada or UTSA, but they also don't seem to be as good as Stanford or UCLA.
How will Arizona handle WSU tomorrow? We checked in with David Potts of Arizona Desert Swarm to get a bead on the Wildcats.
CougCenter: Arizona has faced five pretty bad opponents and two pretty good ones and the results have followed accordingly. How are you feeling about where this team stands at 5-2?
Not great. Though Arizona’s record isn’t bad, it’s bolstered by a weak out of conference slate, and the two losses have been absolute blowouts. Arizona now has to start pl0aying teams with similar talent, which means closer games and more uncertain outcomes. Even with a 5-2 record right now, I think Arizona finishes with only 6 or 7 wins. I hope I’m wrong.
CougCenter: Your defense has been suspect. The absence of Scooby Wright is huge, but the issues run deeper, don’t they?
Definitely, though Scooby Wright covered up a lot of those issues in the past. Last year, Scooby Wright was able to hide some of Arizona’s struggles in stopping the run and rushing the passer. Without him, opposing teams have been able to run the ball down Arizona’s throat, and the defensive line and linebackers haven’t been able to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. This has been exacerbated by the sheer number of injuries to Arizona’s linebackers - Derrick Turituri is currently injured, Haden Gregory was injured filling in for Scooby, and Cody Ippolito tore his ACL before the season even started. Arizona’s issues stopping the run and rushing the passer have been present for a while, and the absence of Scooby Wright has really brought those problems to light.
Pre-Snap Read: WSU vs. Arizona Wildcats
The Cougs trip to Tuscon with four wins stashed in their carry-on, just like two years ago. Can they pull off another upset? We dive into what to look for in the match-up, and get awesome insights on the Wildcats from Anthony Gimino.
CougCenter: While the pass defense has generally struggled, it seems like safety Will Parks has had a strong season and is a guy WSU fans should be aware of. What makes him so good?
His ability to hit and make tackles. Going into the year, Parks was widely expected to be Arizona’s second best defensive player (behind Scooby Wright), and though he hasn’t been as fantastic as Arizona fans have hoped, he still leads the team in tackles and laid a giant hit on Oregon State’s Jordan Villamin a couple of weeks ago. Given Arizona’s issues at the linebacker position, Parks and the rest of Arizona’s safeties have stepped up to at least stop the bleeding in the run game.
CougCenter: Please explain what the heck is going on with the QB situation. There’s no way Anu Solomon doesn’t start, right?
Anu Solomon has to be the starter. While Jerrard Randall has had his moments this season, he started against Stanford and Arizona got smoked. I think last week was just an isolated incident - the offense struggled with Solomon at the helm and Randall provided a change of pace that got the offense moving again.
Still, if Solomon struggles, I would expect Rich Rodriguez to go back to Randall and see what happens. Solomon and Randall are two very different quarterbacks, and I think there is value in making Washington State prepare for (and potentially deal with) two totally different styles.
CougCenter: The offensive player most likely to haunt our dreams is …
Nick Wilson. Wilson was injured and didn’t play last week against Colorado, but he is a beast in the running game, averaging 5.9 yards per carry and racking up eight rushing touchdowns on the year. Assuming Wilson plays (and I expect he will - he dressed last week, but was scratched just before the game), he is the guy Washington State fans need to worry about.
CougCenter: If Arizona wins the game, it’ll be like this …
Anu Solomon starts and doesn’t throw any interceptions, Nick Wilson runs for 100+ yards, and Arizona’s pass defense is able to at least occasionally slow down Luke Falk and Washington State’s offense. I think all of that will ultimately happen and Arizona will pull out a close win at home in a game that is close throughout.