Washington State has played well enough this season to warrant a berth in a New Year’s Six bowl game – but there’s still work to be done as the Cougars host the Arizona Wildcats on Saturday in a pivotal Pac-12 Conference game for both sides. The Cougars improved to 9-1 with last weekend’s 31-7 road trouncing of Colorado, continuing their stretch as one of the top cover teams in the nation. But their final two games come against teams that beat them last year while combining to score 99 points in those games.

First on the list are the Wildcats, who have plenty to play for themselves as they sit on the verge of qualifying for bowl game status. Arizona has had an up-and-down season to date but is coming off a bye and catching fire at the right time, having won back-to-back games while averaging a robust 43 points in those victories. Washington State has opened as a 10-point favorite. The Wildcats and Cougars are coming off a good old-fashioned slugfest last year, with Arizona pulling out a 58-37 victory on Oct. 28, 2017.

SHARK BITES
  • Washington State is 16-5 ATS in its last 21 games.
  • The underdog is 11-4 ATS in their last 15 meetings.
  • The total has gone UNDER in seven of Washington State’s last nine games at home.

Arizona vs Washington State Game Center

Points Aplenty Between Wildcats, Cougars

Few conference rivalries have produced more fireworks over the past half-decade than the matchup between Washington State and Arizona. The Cougars and Wildcats have cashed the OVER in each of their previous four meetings despite those totals ranging from 63 to 73.5. In fact, they’ve averaged an incredible 88.3 total points over the course of those four games.

There’s no reason to think these teams can’t extend that streak Saturday at Martin Stadium. The Cougars have converted the OVER in nine of their previous 13 games overall and boast the nation’s No. 1 pass attack, averaging nearly 400 yards per game through the air. The Wildcats offense is clicking and they’re 8-3 to the OVER in their past 11 November games.

Washington State has been a strong UNDER option at home (20-8-1 to the UNDER in its past 29), but with both teams needing the victory and given their recent high-scoring history, the OVER looks like the stronger play here.

Will WSU be Undone by Red-Zone Defense?

Washington State has done just about everything right en route to going 9-1 SU and ATS in 2018 – but the Cougars will need to do a better job of defending in the red zone if they hope to be playing under the January 1 spotlight. And with Arizona’s offense showing tremendous improvement, the Cougars can’t afford to let teams take advantage of them inside their 20-yard line.

Washington State ranks near the bottom of Division I in red-zone defense, having allowed opponents to score points on 27 of their 29 trips – with 20 of those resulting in touchdowns. The Cougars have done well to limit teams’ trips downfield (averaging 2.9 defensive red-zone chances per game) but are giving up points a whopping 93.1 percent of the time.

Arizona has just 20 touchdowns in its 38 ventures inside the opponents’ 20, but the Wildcats’ average of 3.8 red-zone visits per game should concern Cougars fans. The Wildcats are rolling offensively and should make the hosts pay for letting them march down the field. Look for the visitors to surpass their team point total.

My Pick: Go With Wazzou

No. 91. That’s Arizona’s pass defense ranking heading into Saturday’s encounter, and it’s pretty much all you need to know about this matchup. The Cougars have the nation’s most dangerous passing game, having thrown for 30 touchdowns through the air against just eight interceptions; they’ve also surrendered only seven sacks, third-fewest in the nation.

Arizona should be able to score points in this one, but there’s little chance the Wildcats will be able to keep up with a WSU team that has its sights set squarely on a berth in one of the country’s premier bowl games. I see the home team covering comfortably in this one – and if the Wildcats falter at all on offense, this one could very well be a blowout.

Washington State is 16-5 ATS in its last 21 games.home The underdog is 11-4 ATS in their last 15 meetings. The total has gone UNDER in seven of Washington State’s last nine games at home.home
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