Here are three things to watch in the Arizona Wildcats’ game against Washington at Arizona Stadium (Friday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN2), plus a score prediction and some pertinent preview links:
1. WILL AND JAMARYE
Jedd Fisch on Thursday confirmed what we all expected: Jamarye Joiner will have an expanded role as a quarterback. That doesn’t mean he’s taking over at QB soon or at any point this season. Any suggestion to the contrary is not rooted in reality. Will Plummer has been training in Fisch’s offense since spring. Barring another injury – which, at this rate, can’t be ruled out – Plummer will remain in that role for the remainder of the season. But giving Joiner more looks and touches makes a ton of sense under the current set of circumstances. It’s a way to get one of Arizona’s best athletes the ball. It’s a changeup that can be thrown at the defense. And it should alleviate a bit of the pressure on Plummer. We’d like to see Joiner utilized in the red zone, where the Wildcats’ offense has been absolutely putrid this season (25% touchdown rate). We also believe Plummer has something to offer, despite numbers that indicate otherwise. These next six games will reveal whether we’re right.
2. JALEN AND STEVIE
Veteran tailback Drake Anderson got banged up during last week’s game at Colorado and barely played. Fisch said Monday that Anderson would be a game-time decision for UW. Fisch then added Michael Wiley to the growing game-time group, meaning we could see an infusion of youth in the UA backfield. Jalen John and Stevie Rocker Jr. are the next guys up, and they’ve impressed when given the opportunity. John has averaged 6.9 yards on 27 career touches over the past two season. He had a career-high 71 rushing yards last week. Fisch praised John’s ability to “make the first tackler miss.” His longest run went for 23 yards, which matched the Wildcats’ longest run of the season. Arizona’s dearth of explosive plays partially explains how the Wildcats have run the most plays in the Pac-12 on a per-game basis while scoring the fewest points. Rocker has earned praise the coaching staff since enrolling in January as a 17-year-old freshman. He’s averaging 6.2 yards per touch. Veteran Bam Smith is another option. He has produced whenever given the chance.
3. HOPE AND BELIEF
The Wildcats are saying all the right things about staying positive, continuing to fight and hitting the reset button at the halfway point of the season. Still, it’s fair to wonder about their collective head space, especially after that demoralizing blowout loss in Boulder. A rare fast start would provide a nice boost against a Washington team that isn’t exactly brimming with confidence either. It also would engage the crowd. We didn’t have ticket estimates as of this writing, but it’s safe to say there isn’t a ton of buzz surrounding this game. Friday nights are a tough sell in a lot of ways. The tailgating experience isn’t the same as on a Saturday, and you’re competing with high school football. It won’t be quite like 2020, when Pac-12 teams had to create their own energy while playing in mostly empty stadiums. But beyond the ZonaZoo, which has been full or very close to it every game, we’re not expecting a huge turnout. And those who do come are justified in feeling skeptical about the product until proven otherwise.
FINAL SCORE: Washington 23, Arizona 17