TUCSON - A couple of weeks ago, it appeared a last-place finish in the Pac-10 would be at stake when Arizona played Washington.
But that was before freshman Willie Tuitama took over at quarterback for the Wildcats.
Now Arizona (3-6, 2-4 Pac-10) has won two in a row, the latest a 52-14 stunner over then-No. 7 and previously unbeaten UCLA.
Now the Wildcats face a team they are favored to beat on Saturday, a rare occasion for Arizona, and a scenario that has second-year coach Mike Stoops wary.
‘‘They are a lot like our team. They fight for everything they get,’’ Stoops said of Washington (1-8, 0-6). ‘‘They are just trying to find their way. The kids are playing extremely hard and they are well coached.’’
The Huskies enter the game on a 14-game Pac-10 losing streak.
To make matters worse for coach Ty Willingham’s team, the quarterback situation is unsettled.
Willingham seemed ready to switch to Johnny Durocher, but he is sidelined with a wrist injury. That leaves Isaiah Stanback, who has started all season but was benched in the second half of last week’s 18-10 loss to Oregon State.
Under Stanback, the Huskies are averaging just 19.7 points per game and rank 79th nationally in total offense. Washington has scored over 24 points in a game only once all season and has struggled with a ground game averaging 93 yards per game.
Quarterback is no problem for Arizona, and what a difference that makes.
Since the 18-year-old was pulled out of a redshirt season and inserted against Oregon three weeks ago, Tuitama is completing 56 percent of his throws for 721 yards, six touchdowns and only one interception.
He has had 76 straight passes without throwing a pick.
The Wildcats, playing their final home game, have been able to move the ball well of late, which is something that has to concern a Washington team that ranks 106th nationally in scoring defense, allowing 33 points per game.
Not only has the passing game improved, but the Wildcats rushed for 315 yards against the Bruins.
‘‘Obviously (Tuitama) seems to be the catalyst for their team, and this resurgence,’’ Willingham said. ‘‘They are really starting to move forward in a positive direction.’’
Heading into the season these were predicted to be two of the worst teams in the league, with Arizona picked to finish eighth and Washington last in the Pac-10 media vote.
The prognostication looked pretty good when Arizona was losing five straight before upsetting Oregon State and UCLA in back-to-back weeks.
Washington’s lone victory was against Idaho.
‘‘We are going to have to prepare for a team that has been kind of revitalized,’’ Willingham said. ‘‘They are playing football at what seems to be a much faster tempo, with much more confidence, and they are executing.’’
Washington at Arizona
When: 4 p.m. today
TV: Fox Sports Net Arizona (2 p.m. Sunday)
Radio: KKLT (960 AM)