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Alamo Bowl Answers: A Q&A With AZ Desert Swarm

I would like to thank ufoafanatic from AZDesertSwarm once again for giving us further insight into our Alamo Bowl and 2011 non-conference opponent the Arizona Wildcats.  Today he answers some questions I sent his way... and here they are.

Q1) Arizona seems to be a program that is stuck in the decent-not-great cycle of winning 6-8 games most seasons but not quite being able to get to that next level (this is something Cowboy fans can relate to very well). Do you think the Wildcats are on the right track to bump up that win total by a couple and start regularly contending for the conference title?

A1)  Yes. While the coaching raid by Colorado has hurt us, I’m confident that coach Stoops will go out and get solid replacements. The incoming recruiting class is a good one, and I expect great things from the Wildcats’ talented group of freshmen and sophomores. Believe it or not, Arizona is a better team this year than last year. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, Stanford and Oregon took a leap into elite status this season, and for several reasons Arizona just couldn’t pull out those wins. Look for Arizona to continue to improve year in and year out, and compete for conference titles.

Q2) Since CRFF wasn't around last summer I'll ask this now... what were the feelings on the Big XII South invading the Pac-10 and you guys being in the same division with us, OU, Texas, A&M, Tech, etc?

A2) Excitement. That may come from my high opinion of Pac-10 football, but there were a lot of positives that would have come from that. Increased revenue, greater competition week in and week out, and a conference championship game. Add to the mix that the Arizona schools are ‘expansion’ teams as well, and I think it would have been a good fit.

As it stands, I still fully expect to see Oklahoma St., Oklahoma, Texas, and either Texas A&M or Texas Tech in the ‘Pac-16’ within the next five years. It’s the writing on the wall. Everybody wants a playoff, but nobody can convince the BCS big-wigs or the bowl committees to de-value the regular season. So, you have four ‘super conferences’, probably the Pac-16, Big 10(16), ACC and SEC.

Q3) In your Arizona season recap you touched on how hot and cold of a team the Wildcats are. Once we kickoff in San Antonio, what would be the early indicators that this is a hot or a cold game for the Wildcats?

A3) Well, the first half is critical. On defense, watch for Arizona to try to put pressure on your QB and RBs, and pay attention to how well the secondary is performing. If the DL is getting good penetration, and the secondary is playing well, that’s trouble for Oklahoma St. On offense, it’ll be crucial that Arizona scores early. If Arizona rushes the ball even adequately, and isn’t afraid to throw it deep more than once per drive, they should have a great night.

This all sounds pretty basic, I’m sure, but it’s just as Mr. Bryant assessed. Arizona has been hot and cold all year. When they’re on, they truly are among the best on offense and defense. Unfortunately, when they’re not on, they can be downright embarrassing. That was one of the worst parts of the rivalry game this year. Not the kicking, which was atrocious. The dropped interceptions. Numerous chances to turn the game around, dropped. I want to pull my hair out just thinking about it.

Q4) Who are the main playmakers on offense and defense that we need to be watching out for?

A4) On offense: QB Nick Foles- Scary accurate, with an NFL arm. When the right plays are called, he’s deadly.

WR Juron Criner- The best receiver in the Pac-10, and a major home run threat. Big, fast, and smart. He’ll catch the ball while twisting upside down and being hit.

RB Keola Antolin- Fast and tough. Don’t let his size fool you, he’ll run right up the middle if he has to. When used properly this season, he has been amazing.

On defense: DEs Brooks Reed, Ricky Elmore, and D’Aundre Reed; DT Justin Washington- The Arizona defensive line is solid, by any measurement. Fast, strong, and just a little nasty, they are a nightmare for opposing QBs. They possess great penetrating ability, and when they don’t get the sack, they’ll disrupt the passing game.

CB Shaquille Richardson- Not a starter, but don’t let that fool you. He’s clearly been outplaying Trevin Wade, the starter, and looks amazing in relief. Watch out when he subs in, he’s flashing great talent, as a freshman.

LB Paul Vassallo- Fast, strong, and disruptive. Look for him to lead the team in tackles. He flies all over the field, and will be a major factor in the outcome of the game.