Wildcats, Huskies kick off season's second half
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona raced through the early part of its schedule, winning three straight games behind coach Rich Rodriguez's go-all-the-time offense.
The Wildcats followed with a gauntlet of ranked teams to open the Pac-12 season, losing all three while getting banged up and worn down by a pace that produced more plays than all but one team in the nation.
If any team needed a bye week, it was Arizona.
And even with the break, the Wildcats are still hurting; 13 starters missed practice last week and a half dozen may not be able to play this weekend.
"They should be hungry to play a game," Rodriguez said. "Our guys' focus has been good all year. But we needed this (the bye) probably a couple of weeks ago. We'll take it when we can get it."
Problem for the Wildcats is that it doesn't get any easier, with the next three games against opponents that are or were once ranked.
This next gauntlet of games starts with Washington on Saturday at Arizona Stadium.
The Huskies have played a pretty brutal schedule of their own, with four of six games against teams ranked No. 11 or better in the AP Top 25.
Washington was blown out in road games against LSU and Oregon, but beat Stanford, ranked No. 8 at the time, and stayed within 21-14 of No. 11 USC last week despite four turnovers and a blocked punt.
Washington starts off the second half of the season with a road game against Arizona and Rodriguez's tough-to-defend offense, then has No. 8 Oregon State at home next week.
"This football team has matured gradually throughout the season and I saw it again last week," Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said. "That's what the signs are pointing to. I'm confident of the fact that we're going to come out and play a good football game at Arizona and we'll see if that's good enough to win."
Washington's toughest task against Arizona will be keeping up with its offense.
The Huskies at least have had some practice against up-tempo teams.
It was just two weeks ago that Washington faced Northwest rival Oregon, arguably the fastest team in the country.