Check out our best plays in this week’s Fab Five:
Arizona at No. 8 Washington State
When and Where: Saturday, Nov. 17, Martin Stadium, Pullman, Wash., 10:30 p.m. EST.
One win away from setting up a winner-take-all showdown for the North Division of the Pac-12, eighth-ranked Washington State looks to take care of business Saturday night against an Arizona team looking to become eligible in Kevin Sumlin’s first season.
Wildcats still in contention for Pac-12 South title
Arizona (5-5, 4-3 Pac-12 South) has won back-to-back games and is tied with Arizona State for second in the division, one game back of No. 21 Utah. The Wildcats are still in contention to reach the Pac-12 title game, but need to win this game and their game next week versus Arizona State while the Utes must also lose to Colorado on Saturday.
Sumlin, whose team enjoyed its bye last weekend, which gave Arizona an extra week to fix its road woes. The Wildcats are 1-3 on the road this season, beating only Oregon State, and have been outscored 132-93 in those games.
“I know we’re one of few teams to play 10 weeks in a row. From that standpoint and just from physical and mental health with the combination of travel and late games 10 weeks in a row, we needed a week,” Sumlin told Tucson.com. “I don’t think there’s been a time in my coaching career in 30 years that we’ve gone to the schedule and played 10 straight weeks in a row.”
The biggest beneficiary of the week off was quarterback Khalil Tate, who had been bothered by a sprained ankle suffered early in the season and is finally 100 percent. The injury cost the junior quarterback a game, but he has still put up career highs of 1,954 yards and 19 touchdowns. The ankle injury, though, greatly curtailed his dual-threat abilities, entering this game with just 153 rushing yards after racking up 1,411 in 2017.
All 5️⃣ @KhalilDTN TD passes in 1️⃣ video.
— Arizona Football (@ArizonaFBall) November 3, 2018
Tate, though, also has a standout running back easing that burden in J.J. Taylor, who has 1,221 yards and six touchdowns while averaging 5.9 yards per carry. He has topped 100 yards in his last three games and was an absolute workhorse in the last two as he totaled 70 carries for 404 yards.
Arizona’s top two receivers have clear-cut roles as Shun Brown is the possession receiver with a team-high 51 catches for 542 yards while Shawn Poindexter is the big-play threat with 34 receptions for a team-best 622 yards and eight TDs.
The Wildcats have topped 500 yards in five of their 10 games this season, and their 781 rushing yards in the last three games have raised their season average on the ground to 206.4 per game.
Arizona has won its only game against an AP Top 25 team this season, beating then-No. 19 Oregon 44-15 on Oct. 27. The Wildcats last beat a Top 10 team in 2015 with a 37-30 victory over then-No. 10 Utah and their only road win over an AP Top 10 team in 15 tries dating back to 1996 came in their last such matchup, a 31-24 upset of previously second-ranked Oregon in 2014.
Cougars need win to set up Apple Cup showdown
Washington State (9-1, 6-1 North) is in control of its own destiny to reach the Pac-12 title game, and a victory in this game — provided Washington takes care of business at home against last-place Oregon State — will set up a winner-take-all showdown in Pullman next Friday night, with the Apple Cup victor representing the North in the Pac-12 title game.
After two nail-biting wins, the Cougars enjoyed a rare laugher last weekend, routing Colorado 31-7 on the road. Gardner Minshew continued his bid to earn a trip to New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist, throwing for 335 yards and a pair of touchdowns while completing 35 of 58 passes.
Minshew also won the weekend in terms of social media, planting a fake mustache on Mike Leach that mimics his own during the coach’s post-game interview.
This may be my favorite postgame moment of the year…These 2 are one of a kind and have something special going in Pullman. Only @Coach_Leach and @WSUCougFB rolls with this! #FearTheStache pic.twitter.com/DFyrNU665j
— Allison Williams (@AllisonW_Sports) November 11, 2018
Minshew extended his streak of 300-yard games to 10 and has thrown for 3,852 yards and 29 touchdowns while completing 69.6 percent of his passes. That completion rate is a key component of Washington State using the pass as part of a ball-control offense, which has also helped the defense of late.
The Cougars held the ball for a season-high 41:46 versus the Buffaloes and lead the Pac-12 in average time of possession at 32 minutes and 46 seconds. Arizona, meanwhile, has the second-lowest mark in the conference at 28:03, better than only UCLA.
In turn, Washington State’s defensive numbers have looked better. The Cougars have held back-to-back opponents under 300 yards for the first time since the first two games of the season and have forced five turnovers in those wins after getting just eight in the first eight games.
That success is in stark contrast to last year’s game in which Tate ran wild and accounted for 421 total yards in Arizona’s 58-37 victory. Leach, though, thinks his team had as much to do with Tate’s success as the Wildcats quarterback, and is ready to let first-year defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys make the needed adjustments.
“First of all, our defensive plan was part of what made him dangerous,” Leach told the Spokesman-Review. “I think we had some self-inflicted wounds. The other thing is, I think he’s good with his feet – he can throw and he can run both. Then what they were doing offensively kind of set that up and complimented it, so now it’s kind of a combination with both.”
Washington State is gunning for its first 10-win season since going 10-3 in 2003, capping a three-year streak of 10-win seasons.
Washington State is:
- 5-0 ATS in its last five games after totaling 450 or more yards in its previous game.
- 9-1 ATS in its last 10 home games.
- 6-1 ATS in its last seven games vs. Pac-12 teams.
- The over is 8-3 in its last 11 games following an ATS win.
- The over is 11-5-1 in its last 17 games as a favorite between 3.5 and 10 points.
- The over is 4-1 in its last five home games vs. Arizona.
- 4-14 ATS in its last 18 road games.
- 4-9 ATS in its last 13 games following an ATS win.
- 1-6 ATS in its last seven road games vs. teams with an above-.500 home record.
- The over is 5-0 in its last five games as a road underdog between 3.5 and 10 points.
- The over is 13-5 in its last 18 games after allowing more than 280 passing yards in the previous game.
- The over is 4-0 in its last four games vs. Washington State.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
While the Cougars may like nothing more than to serve up a cold dish of revenge for last year’s defeat, their win at Colorado was equally important. It was the kind of games that successful programs win convincingly, and Washington State did just that on both sides of the ball.
That implies the Cougars have hit that next gear to hit the ground running and take care of business in this game to set up that Apple Cup showdown with Washington. Leach has probably been showing clips of Tate running over, around and through them from last year’s game to make sure his players are not looking ahead to the Huskies.
Though Arizona has played better the last two games, this is still a team that has serious issues transferring that play to the road. Beating Oregon State in Corvallis does not qualify as a feather in the cap, and the Wildcats have given up an average of 490.8 yards in those four road games. If Washington State plays to its strength of that ball-control passing game, it limits the time Tate is on the field to do damage.
Prediction: Pick: Washington State -9.5
Full-Game Total Pick
Even when these meetings have been one-sided, they have not lacked for points. Washington State plastered Arizona 69-7 in the last meeting in the Palouse, and those 76 points were the lowest combined total in the last four matchups. Even if the Cougars have a different scheme to stop Tate, the expectation is Arizona will still get a share of points and send this game comfortably over.
Prediction: Pick: OVER 61 points
Full-Game Prop Bet
The Cougars have not allowed more than 24 points in any of their home games, and their ability to win tight games means they are not going to get in a panic if their offense does not click early. Arizona has struggled to put up points against the better opponents on its schedule until recently, and the expectation is the Wildcats come up a little short of the number.
Prediction: Pick: Arizona UNDER 26.5 points
Half-Time Side Pick
The Cougars have not made it easy on themselves in the first half of their last three games — they have not led by more than three points and not trailed by more than four. But with so much at stake, the momentum of a six-game winning streak, and a chance to knock out Arizona from the conference title race, look for Minshew and Washington State to take control early and cover the less than a touchdown number.
Prediction: Pick: Washington State -6.5
Half-Time Total Bet
Just like leaning to the over when the total is one-half point lower than a common score total, the hedge here is the under since it is one-half point above a common score total. The Cougars have not cleared 30 first-half points in three of their last four games, and the Wildcats had not cleared 31 in their previous six contests before combining with Colorado for 50 last weekend. It may be a nervous one to watch, but the hedge is they come up just short.
Prediction: Pick: UNDER 31.5 points
Half-Time Prop Prediction
Though the fist-half selection is Washington State giving the points, the expectation is there will be plenty of points scored, which makes taking Arizona the play to get a second touchdown.
Prediction: Pick: Arizona OVER 12.5 points