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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


UA will face a top ranked Washington team this weekend and hopes to create some waves

Courtesy Nathaniel Solis
Coach Chris Peterson watches the team practice on Saturday, April 23 in Seattle, Wash.

The Arizona Wildcats football team will begin Pac-12 Conference play against the No. 9 Washington Huskies on Saturday night at Arizona Stadium.

After falling to BYU in the season opener, the Wildcats bounced back by defeating Grambling State and Hawaii in convincing performances.

But who are the Huskies?

Washington comes in undefeated after dominant wins over Rutgers, Idaho and Portland State. The Huskies have outscored their opponents 148-30 to begin the season. Washington, along with Stanford, is regarded as the team in the Pac-12 with the best chance of reaching the College Football Playoff.

Despite the lackluster non-conference slate, the Huskies have showcased an explosive offense that features numerous weapons.

The Huskies’ high-powered offense starts with the man under center, Jake Browning, who is in his second year at the helm after a productive first season as a true freshman a year ago. Browning is off to a scorching start to his sophomore campaign as he’s thrown 12 touchdowns with one interception while racking up 744 yards. His total quarterback rating (QBR) of 84.7 is good for fourth best in the Football Bowl Subdivison, while his .716 completion percentage is sixth best.

It’s also worth noting that Browning has plenty of talented playmakers around him, including receivers John Ross, Chico McClatcher, Dante Pettis and Brayden Lenius. The latter will be available Saturday after serving a three-game suspension to start the season.

While Browning has yet to show many weaknesses, the only knock on him in the past has been his inability to throw the long ball.

Washington is happy to welcome back Ross, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL. The electric wide receiver—regarded as one of the fastest players in the country—has tallied four touchdowns on 167 yards this season. Ross is also a threat returning kickoffs and punts on special teams, as he scored a 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the team’s opener against Rutgers.

The kick-return touchdown was the fourth of his career, which is an all-time record at the UW. With that being said, the UA may have to think twice before kicking to Ross on Saturday.

UW’s defense is no slouch either, as it is highly effective against stopping the run while its secondary consists of a few players who could be early picks in the 2017 NFL draft.

In addition to a ferocious defensive line that features three physical run-stoppers in Elijah Qualls, Vita Vea and Greg Gaines, UW’s defense also boasts two NFL-bound defensive backs in Budda Baker and Sidney Jones. Baker typically plays safety while Jones is a corner.

According to CBS Sports, Baker is ranked as the 35th best draft prospect for the 2017 NFL draft while Jones is 67th. A season ago, the UW led the Pac-12 with 17.8 points allowed per game and Jones and Baker were big reasons why.

Jones was second in the Pac-12 in interceptions with four and was tied for first with three forced fumbles. Baker finished the year with 42 tackles and two interceptions. Both were named to the first-team Pac-12.

The Wildcats and Huskies will kickoff Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Follow Ross Olson on Twitter

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