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First look: Arizona at Washington State (8)

November 12, 2018

What is it? Coming off a bye week, Arizona (5-5, 4-3) will look to lock down a bowl berth when it visits No. 8 Washington State (9-1, 6-1).

Where is it? Martin Stadium in Pullman.

When is it? Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

Where can I watch it? ESPN will carry the live broadcast.

Who is favored? Washington State was a 10-point favorite as of Monday morning.

How did they fare last week? WSU put together a dominant second half to run away from Colorado 31-7 at Folsom Field in Boulder. Arizona had a bye week after beating the Buffaloes the week prior.

Why Arizona will win: WSU’s defensive players and coaches will obviously dedicate plenty of film study this week to Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate, but they ought to spent the same amount of time preparing for running back J.J. Taylor. The Wildcats’ redshirt sophomore has been sizzling the last three weeks and comes into Saturday’s contest having rushed for 558 yards on 89 carries and three touchdowns in his last three games. Tate’s been hobbled by an ankle injury most of the season and hasn’t scored on the ground since week two, but WSU will see the Arizona QB as close to 100 percent as he’s been all season coming off the bye week. Since resting against UCLA four weeks ago, Tate’s thrown eight touchdown passes and just two interceptions. And he’s hurt the Cougars before (see below).

Why WSU will win: Nobody in the Pac-12 and few teams in the country have as much momentum as the Cougars do, and now they return to a place where they still haven’t lost since 2016. WSU carries a 12-game win streak into Saturday’s matchup and frigid conditions at Martin Stadium – temperatures could drop into the 30’s by the 7:30 kickoff – could hamper an Arizona team that’s traveling from the Pac-12’s warmest climate. If anything hampers the Wildcats in this game, it’ll likely be their miscues in pass coverage. Statistically, Arizona ranks 10th in the conference in total defense (417 yards per game) and ninth in pass defense (248.7 ypg).

What happened last time? Washington State’s offense spent most of the game playing catch-up when the Cougars and Wildcats met least season in Tucson. After Arizona jumped out to a 20-7 lead, Mike Leach replaced Luke Falk with Tyler Hilinski and the backup unleashed 45 passes for 509 yards and two touchdowns while running for another two, but also threw four interceptions. But Tate and Taylor were dynamic together in the Wildcats’ backfield and the two combined to rush for 299 yards and three touchdowns. Tate had two more touchdowns through the air and the Wildcats won it 58-37, handing the Cougars their second loss of the year.

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