TUCSON, Ariz. – Washington State had a 55-7 lead in Pullman last season when Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez threw No. 14 to the wolves – rather, to the Cougars. The backup to the backup scooted for 19 yards on one first-down run, then picked up 10 on his next. Perhaps Khalil Tate already had the style, just not the substance. The redshirt freshman got three drives on the Palouse in 2016 and completed just one pass on six attempts. Well, he completed two passes, but the other one fell right to WSU corner Treshon Broughton.
Boy has Tate matured since then… In three games since becoming Arizona’s top gun, the redshirt sophomore has chugged for 694 yards on the ground. As noted by ESPN’s Kyle Bonagura, his season total – 780 – is more than what Heisman Trophy frontrunner Saquon Barkley, of Penn State, has done in seven games. Tate’s played in five and he’s only been “the guy” in three.
The bad news for Tate in this matchup? WSU’s “Speed D” has evolved almost as much as he has. The Cougars are ranked No. 7 nationally in total defense and aren’t giving up a lot of of ground to the conference’s top rushers. Royce Freeman, Ronald Jones and Phillip Lindsay combined to score just one touchdown against WSU and only Jones went over 100 yards. And the mobile quarterbacks who used to make life tough on the Cougars aren’t finding as many creases, or as much open space as they once did.
Tate’s legs are a definite threat, but I have a feeling Luke Falk’s right arm is the most dangerous weapon tomorrow night.
The line: Washington State by 2.5
The pick: Washington State 49, Arizona 38