SEATTLE—For a team that already has three losses, it's hard to find a school that's received more attention than Washington.
Maybe some of the hype should be going to Arizona, which can make a statement about its own legitimacy with a win over the improved Huskies on Saturday night.
Arizona (3-1, 1-0) has remained mostly unnoticed because its first two victories over Central Michigan and Northern Arizona were unimpressive, followed by a 27-17 loss at undefeated Iowa that's only looked better in the three weeks since.
But the Wildcats made their first statement two weeks ago at Oregon State. In the first start for transfer quarterback Nick Foles, Arizona's offense found its rhythm in a 37-32 victory over the Beavers.
Foles threw for 254 yards on a day the Wildcats needed his passing, with star running back Nic Grigsby leaving early due to a shoulder injury.
"My thing is just to keep it up, keep studying film, keep doing what I did last week," said Foles, who took over for Matt Scott at quarterback. "As long as I do that and we have good practices this week, we'll be fine."
Most importantly, the Wildcats rested last week, critical time in getting Grigsby healthy for Saturday against the Huskies, especially with tight end Rob Gronkowski lost for the season with a back injury. Arizona's also likely to have defensive end Brooks Reed back after he missed the game against Oregon State.
Arizona coach Mike Stoops joked that it would have been tough to field a full roster last week following the two physical games at Iowa and Oregon State.
Only nine times since joining the Pac-10 in 1978 have the Wildcats gotten off to a 2-0 start in conference play, with six of those resulting in bowl berths. While the bulk of Arizona's schedule - Stanford, Oregon, California and USC - is still to come, Stoops realizes how important a third-straight win in Seattle would be.
Stoops is 7-3 playing at the Northwest schools since arriving in Tucson.
"We've played really well, all things considering. I don't think there is any one thing you can put that on," Stoops said. "We've become a better team of late over the last three years."
While the Wildcats are refreshed, the Huskies (2-3, 1-1) are trying to shake any hangover from last Saturday's 37-30 overtime loss at Notre Dame. Just five games into Steve Sarkisian's rebuilding project, the Huskies and their fans are already trying to overcome the frustration of a game they should have won.
Of course, heartbreak and anger is an improvement over the apathy that seemed to overtake the Huskies a year ago during their winless 2008 season.
"There's a lot of great lessons for us to learn from," Sarkisian said. "It was obviously an emotional moment, an emotional game, a heart-wrenching loss, but one we're going to take a lot of really good things out of, and also a lot of teachable moments that are going to help us move in a positive direction here."
The bright spots were plentiful at Notre Dame. Quarterback Jake Locker had another solid performance in his quick maturation in Sarkisian's offense and remains the Pac-10 leader in total offense at 278 yards per game. Running back Chris Polk emerged with the first 100-yard game of his career, a punishing 136-yard effort that continued to display his ability to be a featured back.
Mostly, Sarkisian was pleased with the effort his team showed a week after falling flat at Stanford, a performance that followed the Huskies upset of USC.
But major defensive concerns again popped up. The Huskies pass rush rarely pressured Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen, setting him up to throw for 422 yards on the Huskies secondary.
Two years ago, in a game many in Tucson consider Stoops' turning point with the Wildcats, Willie Tuitama threw for 510 yards on the Huskies as Arizona rallied with 21 points in the fourth quarter for a 48-41 win.
Washington's hoping not to see a repeat of the last Arizona visit.
"They're good. It's not about one thing or another," Sarkisian said. "They are balanced. They do a nice job stopping the run, they do a nice job against the pass. They run the ball well ... they're throwing the ball all over the place. This is a real challenge for us."