Arizona Wildcats defense

Not pictured: The biggest team in college football
Photo by Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE

Washington at Oregon is the Pac-12 game of the week but the Arizona Wildcats are more interested in the Huskies’ game last week, when UW took down Stanford.

How did Washington pull off the upset and what can Arizona learn from it as the Cats prepare to face their third straight ranked opponent to open Pac-12 play?

But first, your TWit-Pac TV schedule looks like this (all times Arizona/Pacific):

Date Away Home Time TV
Thu Oct 4 USC Utah 6 p.m. ESPN
Sat Oct 6 ARIZONA Stanford 12 p.m. FOX
  WSU OSU 3 p.m. P12N
  UCLA Cal 7 p.m. P12N
  Washington Oregon 7:30 p.m. ESPN

Each of the five games involves a ranked team and all six of league’s top-25 teams are in play. Make sure your recliner is properly cushioned for this week.

Stanford lost and Oregon State won so the stack has shifted in terms of Pac-12 bowl chances:

Team Record Non-Conf Home Left Misses
Oregon 5-0 3-0 3 UCLA, Utah
OSU 3-0 1-0 6 Colo, USC
UCLA 4-1 3-0 4 Ore, Wash
USC 3-1 2-0 4 OSU, WSU
Washington 3-1 2-1 3 ASU, UCLA
Stanford 3-1 2-0 3 ASU, Utah
ASU 4-1 2-1 3 Stan, Wash
ARIZONA 3-2 3-0 4 Cal, WSU
Utah 2-2 2-1 4 Ore, Stan
WSU 2-3 2-1 3 Ariz, USC
Cal 1-4 1-2 4 Ariz, Colo
Colorado 1-4 0-3 4 Cal, OSU

OSU already has two conference road wins and is sitting pretty with all those home games left. Based on wins in the bank and remaining schedule everyone down to ASU is in really good shape. The Pac-12’s final bowl bid may come down to the winner of the Arizona/Utah game in Salt Lake City the second-to-last week of the season.

To the games!

USC (3-1 / 1-1) at Utah (2-2 / 0-1)
Because of the aforementioned collision course with Utah, it’s best for Arizona fans to root for the Utes to go into a tailspin even though it’s definitely tempting to hope USC falls victim to some Thursday-night-unranked-home-underdog magic.

ARIZONA (3-2 / 0-2) at Stanford (3-1 / 1-1)
Last year the Cardinal didn’t suffer its first defeat until mid November. The Andrew Luck era is officially over in Palo Alto.

WSU (2-3 / 0-2) at OSU (3-0 / 2-0)
The Beavers have handled ranked teams. They’ve handled the road. Now can they handle Rose Bowl talk?

UCLA (4-1 / 1-1) at Cal (1-4 / 0-2)
UCLA only has four conference road games this year and three of them are Colorado, Cal and Washington State. Somewhere Rick Neuheisel is yelling at Ronnie Lott.

Washington (3-1 / 1-0) at Oregon (5-0 / 2-0)
It’s not as sexy as LSU/Florida or West Virginia/Texas but it’s the Pac-12’s battle of ranked teams this week. Will someone finally get within three scores of the Ducks?

ASU (4-1 / 2-0) – bye
The Sun Devils have the week off before a pair of Thursday games. Sparky has been using the extra time making videos. You know…Sparky?

Colorado (1-4 / 1-1) – bye
Colorado is ASU’s first Thursday night opponent. After that the Buffs are scheduled to play four ranked teams in five weeks. It’s a really good thing they got that win out of the way.

* * *

Arizona has not found the Pac-12 games to be as pleasant as those of the non-conference variety. Rich Rodriguez is still looking for his first Pac-12 win and his team faces a tall task in playing at Stanford.

Very tall. Earlier this week RichRod said the Cardinal “might be the biggest team in college football.”

Did Washington provide a blueprint for slaying the Stanford giants? They limited star running back Stepfan Taylor to 3.6 yards per carry with no runs longer than seven yards. They hung close (it was a 6-3 game late in the third quarter) and were able to take their first lead with five minutes left in the contest. They forced Stanford quarterback Josh Nunes to beat them and he couldn’t.

The Cardinal had just two plays longer than 20 yards (both of them completions to tight end Zach Ertz) and no offensive touchdowns. Can Arizona have similar success against the Stanford offense? Do the Cats even have 11 healthy defensive players?

It’s also worth noting that both of Washington’s TDs last week came on big plays in short-yardage situations. Running back Bishop Sankey escaped for a 61-yard run on 4th-and-1 and receiver Kasen Williams broke a tackle on a short 3rd-and-2 completion and raced 35 yards for the game-winning score.

You’re not going to pull off 10-play drives and pound it in from the five against Stanford’s defense. You need to find a way to break a couple long ones. Look to set up screens for Ka’Deem Carey or Dan Buckner. Speedster Garic Wharton was open deep against Oregon State so try that again. Trick plays? Gambling on a blocked punt? Anything to extend a drive or create a short field would help.

If you take out the Duke blowout, 21 points has been enough to win in Stanford’s games this year. Can the UA keep the score that low?

Against Washington, Taylor had 21 carries on first and second down. He gained a total of two first-downs on those runs. You know how many third-down rushes he had? Not a single one. Stanford faced 17 third-down situations and called a passing play 15 times. Only three of those third-down situations were shorter than three yards.

The Arizona defense has to get to third down, has to stay out of third-and-short and has to get off the field. How? Would they allow the Cats to put 15 men in the box?

But if they pull it off? RichRod’s third Pac-12 game could be the charm.

* * *

As a guy who takes Arizona’s football uniforms seriously I feel it is my duty to comment on the Wildcats’ new copper helmets after seeing them live and in action for the first time:

Copper approved.

They should be worn again. Not often, but one more time this year sounds right. I liked them with the blue shirts but there should be a unique jersey to go with them. Navy with copper trim, maybe incorporating the Arizona state flag. It would emphasize the athletic department’s This is Wildcat Country theme.

Maybe next year on the new jersey. But no black. Leave that to the team up north.

And keep the new stuff coming. Keep things fresh and interesting. Don’t forget, there are red helmets out there somewhere.

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Scott Terrell thinks the 15-men-in-the-box idea could work. Talk strategy on Twitter and Facebook.