Arizona (4-1, 2-0 Pac-12) hosts the best team they’ve played this season, the Washington Huskies (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12) at 8 pm in Arizona Stadium. The game will be televised nationally on FS1.
For most Arizona fans, there are two games of significance in their series against Washington worth mentioning, both Arizona wins. The first took place in 1992 at a sold out, standing room only crowd in excess of 58,000 in the year of the birth of Arizona’s famed “Desert Swarm” defense, with Arizona holding Washington to a lone field goal, scoring only one touchdown themselves, and relying on 3 field goals from Steve McLaughlin to seal the win, 16-3.
The most memorable win over Washington came in 1998, at Husky Stadium, when Quarterback Ortege Jenkins flipped over Washington defenders at the goal line on Arizona’s final offensive series to beat the Huskies 31-28. The “leap by the lake” is the seminal moment of Arizona’s best season in football.
Okay, Arizona fans, after those two shining moments, what do you have to hang your hat on vs. Washington?
Nothing. Arizona vs. Washington in football may be a “series,” but it isn’t a rivalry by Washington standards. Since Arizona came into the Pac 10 in 1978, Arizona has been an afterthought. In the 33 conference meetings between Arizona and Washington, Arizona’s record is a dismal 11-21-1. It took Arizona eight attempts before they could muster a conference win against Washington, at home 20-17, in 1989.
But they paid for it the next 2 seasons, as Arizona became the scorched earth wrath of the “James Gang,” losing 54-10 in 1990 and 54-0 in 1991 when both games were played at Husky Stadium.
It’s hard not to admire the Washington football program. From 1975 to 1992, Hall of Fame coach Don James took Washington to six Rose Bowls. Amassing a 153-57-2 overall record (97-38-2 Pac 8/10), under James, Washington was a dominant team during the period, not only in conference but nationally.
Since James retired in 1992, Washington has gone to two more Rose Bowls, and a bunch of other Bowl games as well. I hate to state the obvious, but in FORTY seasons, Arizona hasn’t been to the Rose Bowl except to play UCLA.
Husky Stadium is the largest football stadium in the Northwest. Washington has led the conference in attendance 13 times, and routinely fills the 70,000 + plus capacity. Washington finished a $280 million dollar renovation of Husky Stadium in 2013, retaining the recognizable cantilevered roof over both sides of the structure. Arizona on the other hand, is wondering where they might scrape up $40 million to raze and rebuild the west side of Arizona Stadium. You want to add insult to injury for visiting teams? Husky Stadium has also been measured as the loudest football stadium in the country, measured at 135 decibels, with a recorded measurement by ESPN as the loudest crowd in NCAA history in a game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers in 1992. I’m not sure what 135 decibels is, but I’m pretty sure you could measure the noise level at Arizona Stadium for the last 2 seasons, combine all games, multiply it by 2, and not approach 100 decibels.
Washington fans also travel as well, if not better than any other team in the Pacific 12 conference. In a way, Husky fans are to football what Arizona fans are to basketball. It is very likely that large portions of Arizona Stadium this Saturday night will be overflowing with purple and gold. In fact, having that many Washington visitors this week may be Arizona’s best bet to eclipse the 50,000 mark in attendance. As an Arizona fan, you can always console yourself in the fact that the 15-20,000 Washington fans must return to the dreary, rainy weather in Seattle.
Purple and Gold are the colors of royalty, and Washington is pretty close to football royalty. Among Pac 12 teams, only Utah, Colorado and Washington State have worse percentage won/loss records against Washington. And Utah and Colorado don’t really count as much because there hasn’t been that much history between these three programs. Arizona has lost to Washington 65% of the time since 1978. If you’re a Washington fan, betting on the Huskies would have been safe.
By the standards of history, tradition and fan support, compared to Washington, Arizona is like the sprinter who pulls his hammy out of the starting blocks, but gamely limps to the finish line a minute after the rest of the runners have already crossed.
So, what chance does Arizona have Saturday night? Well, this Washington team does have two losses, most recently against Stanford, 23-13, last week in Palo Alto, and to Cal, at home, 20-19 in their second game of the season. They also beat USC 28-14 several weeks ago.
Arizona last defeated the Huskies in 2014, at Arizona Stadium. You could argue that Chris Petersen, Washington’s coach, handed the game to Rich Rodriguez. Late in the 4 quarter, Washington secured a first down on their own 40-yard line. All they had to do was kneel on the ball three times and run out the clock, or very worst-case scenario, run most of the time off the clock, punt, and put Arizona deep in their own territory with just seconds left on the clock. Instead, Washington ran a running play, a fumble was forced by Tra’Mayne Bondurant. Arizona recovered, scored, and ended up winning the game 27-26.
Arizona is 2-0 in Pac 12 play, but you could make a case that their wins against UCLA and Colorado were against the worst teams in conference. That said, this Washington team isn’t the kind of team that has beaten Arizona like a red headed stepchild over 40 years, especially on offense.
Overall, the teams appear to be evenly matched. Maybe the Huskies offense recovers against an Arizona defense that has given up 29.4 points per game.
Arizona’s defense has stiffened up in the 4 quarter though, limiting Texas Tech, UCLA and Colorado, to a combined total of just three points.
So, let’s go with that and forget all about a history that clearly favors the Huskies. I see a close game, with Arizona able to move the ball on the ground, or in the air, depending on what the Husky defense gives. I also see a rising Arizona defense again holding firm in the 4 quarter.
Prediction: Arizona 28 – Washington 27