Washington State (4-5) at Arizona (6-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 16, 2 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Arizona Stadium (57,400) -- Tucson, Arizona. Television: Pac-12 Network. Home Record: WSU 2-2, Arizona 3-1. Away Record: WSU 2-2, Arizona 3-2. Neutral Record: WSU 0-1, Arizona 0-0. Conference Record: WSU 2-4, Arizona 3-3. Series Record: Arizona leads, 25-13.
GAME NOTES: In the second part of a three-game homestand, the Arizona Wildcats will try to bounce back against the Washington State Cougars when the two squads run into each other at Arizona Stadium.
The Cougars had an extra week to prepare for this matchup as they were idle this past weekend. Some time off was certainly needed for Mike Leach's squad as the Cougars had lost three straight games entering the bye week. Even though it might not seem like it, Washington State has shown some improvement in Leach's second year at the helm. The Cougars are 4-5 overall, already eclipsing their win total from last year, though at 2-4 in Pac-12 play there is still work to be done. In this game the Cougars will be trying to wash away the taste of a 55-21 rout at home to Arizona State.
The Wildcats were rolling along with three straight wins and looked poised to enter the national rankings if they could have taken down UCLA at home last Saturday. It was not to be, as the No. 13 Bruins pulled out a 31-26 victory. The Wildcats are also in their second year under a new head coach in Rich Rodriguez. The Wildcats own a 6-3 overall record, while having fought to even in conference action (3-3).
These teams have not met in the last two seasons. The last matchup came during the 2010-11 season when Keola Antolin rushed for two touchdowns to lead the Wildcats to a 24-7 victory in Pullman. The win improved Arizona's all-time series record against the Cougars to 25-13.
Leach has had no trouble instilling his pass-heavy offensive scheme at Washington State. This year the Cougars have again been one of the most prolific teams in the Pac-12 through the air, ranking second behind Oregon State (365.8 ypg).
At the center of the attack is quarterback Connor Halliday, who has been racking up the yards this year. In all, Halliday has thrown for 3,098 yards and 20 touchdowns, completing 62.7 percent of his pass attempts. However, by constantly letting the ball fly, Halliday has been guilty of more than his fair share of errant throws, with 18 interceptions on the campaign.
Halliday has completed at least 20 passes to nine receivers, led by Gabe Marks. Marks has hauled in more than twice as many receptions (63) as any other player on the roster and has totaled 721 yards and six touchdowns. Rickey Galvin (31 re options, 250 yard, two TDs) is a steady force, while Dominique Williams (24 receptions, 383 yards, four TDs) and Vince Mayle (27 receptions, 373 yards, five TDs) are solid scoring threats.
Interestingly enough, the Cougars defend well against the pass, led by Deone Bucannon, who looks well on his way to all-conference honors. Bucannon leads the team in tackles (85) and tied for fourth nationally in interceptions with five. Damante Horton (four INTs) is another effective player in the secondary, while Xavier Cooper (4.0 sacks) has been solid in getting pressure. Even with those contributions the Cougars are still among the three worst teams in the Pac-12 in total defense (453.1 ypg).
Arizona could not be more different offensively than Washington State. The Wildcats are a much more run-heavy squad, as they rank second in the Pac-12 in rushing offense (271.3 ypg). The Wildcats are averaging 34.8 points per game.
When you have a running back like Ka'Deem Carey to give the ball to it is easy to see why the Wildcats would be so prone to rushing the ball. Carey has erupted in Rodriguez's run-first offensive system and has tallied 1,221 yards and 11 touchdowns this season, despite missing the first game. Carey is second in the nation in rushing yards per game (152.6 ypg) and has had 100 yards rushing in an FBS-leading 12 straight games.
It takes a certain type of quarterback to run Rodriguez's system and B.J. Denker has done an admirable job in doing so. In terms of passing Denker has throw for 1,688 yards and 11 touchdowns on 58.4 percent passing. Denker has kept his miscues to a minimum with just four interceptions and he has picked up his level of play lately with five-straight games in which he has completed at least 60 percent of his pass attempts. Denker is also quite a threat on the ground as he has 645 yards and 11 touchdowns on 121 carries.
Nate Phillips has been a very useful target for Denker in the passing game. He leads the team with 406 yards and six touchdowns despite being second in receptions (29). Phillips brought in a season-high eight passes for 97 yards and two scores against UCLA and has now had a touchdown grab in five straight games. Samajie Grant (32 receptions, 271 yards, TD) is the team's leading pass-catcher when it comes to receptions.
Tra'Mayne Bondurant is the playmaker for the Wildcats on defense as he has 46 tackles and three interceptions, with a pair of sacks. Scooby Wright (68 tackles) is the leader in terms of tackles. Arizona isn't blowing anyone away with its defense, ranking near the middle of the Pac-12 in both scoring (22 ppg) and total defense (384.3 ypg).
With Bondurant in the secondary the Wildcats have a real deterrent to the Cougars' passing game. Meanwhile, the Cougars don't really have much of an answer for Carey. If Denker can continue his strong stretch of play and the Wildcats control the tempo, they will get back into the win column.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arizona 38, Washington State 27
11/14 16:06:01 ET