Editor’s note: This is the latest in a six-week series in which we take an early look at each of Arizona’s 12 opponents this season. Today, we look at Washington. Up next: Utah on Monday.
When first-year Washington coach Chris Petersen and the Huskies roll into Tucson in mid-November, it will mark the first time the coach has ever faced Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez in a game.
But the two have a battle going that dates back more than eight years, and neither side will admit defeat.
The clash revolves around — what else — recruiting.
When Petersen took over at Boise State in 2006, he declared that his program would only recruit OKGs — or “Our Kinda Guys.” If you’re an Arizona fan, you’re probably more than familiar with that term. Rodriguez has sworn by it during his first three years at the UA and said he started using it when he was the coach at West Virginia.
Both believe they were the first to use the catchy term, which obviously can’t be true. In this matchup, we’ll never know the true winner.
That won’t be the case when Washington and Arizona meet up this season. We’ll definitely get a winner in that.
So what will the Huskies look like under Petersen?
Here’s a closer look at his team:
When: Saturday, Nov. 15.
Where: Arizona Stadium
Last year’s record: 9-4
Projections: Most preseason prognosticators believe it’s going to be more of the same for the Huskies this season. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Huskies went 9-4 last year and qualified for their fourth straight bowl game after a seven-year drought. But most think the Huskies have reached their ceiling — for now. No preseason predictions have Washington higher than third in the Pac-12 North. Most believe it’s a two-team race between Oregon and Stanford and that the Huskies aren’t quite ready to join. Lindy’s thinks the most of Washington, ranking Petersen’s team 23rd in the country. Phil Steele slotted the Huskies in at No. 28.
Three names to know
Quarterback Cyler Miles: Miles will take over the offense from Keith Price, who graduated after throwing for 8,919 yards — the second-most in school history. Miles went 37 for 61 for 418 yards last season as Price’s backup. Petersen suspended the sophomore, who was a four-star recruit out of high school, for spring drills after he was linked to an assault in Seattle. He was never charged though, and Petersen reinstated him in May.
Linebacker Shaq Thompson: Thompson is the team’s leading returner tackler from a year ago. The junior had 78 tackles, including 3½ for a loss, and four pass breakups last season.
He has ideal size for the position at 6-2, 231 and should be one of the better defensive players in the league this year. Steele thought enough of him to put him on his preseason first-team All-Pac-12 squad.
Cornerback Marcus Peters: The Oakland native started all 12 regular-season games last season and was named second team All-Pac-12.
He led the team in interceptions (five) and pass breakups (nine). He’s played in all 26 games in his career and is the most dependable player in the secondary. Peters also had 55 tackles and a sack last season.
Three numbers to know
11 The Huskies, who open the season at Hawaii, are 1-11 in true road openers, and have lost six straight.
499.3 Employing Steve Sarkisian’s up-tempo offense, Washington ranked 13th in the nation last season in total offense, averaging 499.3 yards per game.
5-4 Washington has gone 5-4 in the Pac-12 each of the past four seasons and hasn’t won more than that since going 6-2 in the league in 2001.
How they’re different from last time: That remains to be seen. The Huskies will undoubtedly look different under Petersen from the way they looked under Sarkisian, but it’s impossible to know exactly how. Washington found its stride last season with a fast-paced offense, and it would make sense that Petersen would continue it this year. But the Huskies, who return seven starters on offense and seven more on defense, return just one assistant coach from last season and will certainly have some different schemes and wrinkles this year.