Here are three things to watch in the Arizona Wildcats’ game against Washington State in Pullman (Friday, 7 p.m., Pac-12 Networks), plus a score prediction and some pertinent preview links:
1. BROWN OUT?
A significant subplot emerged Thursday when Yahoo Sports reported that UA defensive coordinator Don Brown is the leading candidate for the UMass job. The reporter who broke the story, Pete Thamel, is plugged into the coaching world, so this story has legs. No final decisions had been made as of Thursday night. If Brown, 66, does decide to leave, it’ll be based on two factors: his fond feelings for UMass, where he coached twice before, including a five-year stint as head coach (2004-08); and the fact that most of his family lives in the region. (Brown is from Spencer, Massachusetts, which is about an hour away from Amherst.) Regardless of whether he takes the job, Brown will have to address the subject with his players. How might that impact Friday’s game? Our guess is that the defense will be even more fired up than usual. Whether Brown is staying or going, expect the Wildcats to play, as he might say, with their “hair on fire.” Which might actually feel good when you consider Item No. 2.
2. WEATHER OR NOT
The forecast for Friday in Pullman calls for a high of 38 degrees and a low of 32 with a 100% chance of a rain-snow mixture during the day. Sounds like fun, eh? It depends on your perspective. Defensive tackle Kyon Barrs, who’s from Southern California, told us he wants it to snow. Why? He’s never experienced a legit snowfall. Precipitation isn’t expected during the game. So it shouldn’t be a factor. If it were? “It doesn't matter,” Barrs said. “Rain, sleet, snow – we’ll go out and play no matter what the weather is.” Jedd Fisch had a similar message for the players. “I told the guys, ‘If it rains, it rains. What are we gonna do about that?’ We gotta just deal with that,” Fisch said. “We're just gonna play ball, whatever the weather looks like. If it's cold, it's cold.” We actually think the weather could be advantageous for Arizona’s defense, which less than a week ago traded blows with a physical Utah front for almost 80 plays in 80-plus-degree heat. The Wildcats couldn’t get the Utes off the field in the fourth quarter.
3. ‘SCRAMBLING SMART’
We mentioned last week that QB Will Plummer can help himself stay in one piece by getting the ball out of his hands quicker. He’s definitely making progress in that area, the final drive vs. Utah notwithstanding. But there’s another way Plummer can protect himself. He cut his throwing hand against Cal when he used it to try to find off a defender. Given that Gunner Cruz suffered a season-ending thumb injury in a similar fashion, it’s probably not the best idea. “I certainly have brought up the do-not-stiff-arm,” Fisch said. “That is not an option for a quarterback with their throwing hand. That is not something you do. ... We’ve really spent a big amount of time with Will this past week emphasizing (that) scrambling and scrambling smart are two different things. We're trying to take it to that next spot of scrambling smart and avoiding a hit. You don't need to stiff-arm a guy unless it's fourth down and the game’s on the line. Other than that, let's protect your throwing hand. Let's protect your throwing shoulder.”
FINAL SCORE: Washington State 31, Arizona 27
Contact sports reporter Michael Lev at 573-4148 or email@example.com. On Twitter @michaeljlev