Doesn't it seem like we just played these guys? If memory serves me, we kicked the crap out of them a mere 8 months ago. Either way, as part two of a three game series (we finish it up next year at Arizona) the Oklahoma State Cowboys welcome the Arizona Wildcats to Boone Pickens Stadium for a Thursday night contest on ESPN.
Am I the only one who enjoys the Thursday night ESPN games? I don't have any Friday classes this semester so I plan on drinking til I reach Aggie...
Arizona Wildcat Review
The University of Arizona is located in Tuscon, Arizona (home of one of the highest crime rates in the nation. What does that have to do with football? Nothing). The Wildcats football team was originally known by the nickname "Varsity", from 1899 to 1914, when it was changed to Wildcats. They haven't had much success at football, winning 8 conference titles (we have 9, suck on that 'Zona), and are the only team in the PAC 12 (until this year, when Colorado and Utah join) to have never been to the Rose Bowl (though they've only been members since 1978).
From what I can tell they have two trophy games, one with New Mexico (for the much sought after Kit Carson rifle) and one with Arizona State, for the Territorial Cup. Their current head coach is Mike Stoops (you know, the Stoops we can beat), whose biggest claim to fame is that he is the original Bo Pelini, and was terrorizing refs long before Bo stumbled on the field.
This type of amazing analysis plus a whole lot more after the jump...
How did last year go, you may be asking? Well, it was really a tale of two seasons. The first "season" went okay, seeing Zona go 7-1, and with wins over teams like Iowa, Cal, and UCLA, climbing all the way to a number 9 ranking. Then there is the second season, where they went 0-5. Now, granted, the back half of Zona's schedule was loaded, playing at Stanford and Oregon (who, sources tell me, were pretty good last year) and at home against USC and Arizona State. Of course, all anyone here remembers is the Alamo Bowl beat down which capped their 5 game losing streak. Arizona finished the year with a top 25 offense, and a top 40 defense. One of the biggest reasons they struggled last year was the -4 turnover margin, which is not so good.
Arizona returns 10 starters, (including quarterback Nick Foles) with 5 on each side of the ball plus one specialist. They also return their four leading receivers as well as their top running back. Foles had a 2-1 touchdown to interception ratio last year and has his favorite targets back. I see a big season from him this year if his line can block for him. He threw for 412 yards and 5 TD's last weekend against the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks. 3 of those 5 touchdowns came in the the third quarter.
The Wildcat offensive line only returns one starter and has lost two PAC 10 all Americans from last year. The defense also returns 5 starters including their top four tacklers. Two of the returning starters are linebackers so that unit should be stout. On the other hand, the line will suffer having lost both of their starting defensive ends (both of whom were drafted to the NFL).
How They Can Beat Us:
Quarterback Nick Foles (20 TD's, 10 Int's) returns his top four receiving targets and should have some success through the air (if his line can block). Wide receiver Juron Criner (SR) was first team All PAC 10, and had over 1,200 yards receiving and 11 TD's. If that combo wasn't enough, they also return two more seniors in David Roberts, David Douglas, and junior Terrence Miller. What this means is that Arizona returns 70% of their total passing offense. With returning leading rusher Keola Antolin, Arizona returns over 50% of their offense from last year.
Their linebacking corp returns 3rd team all PAC 10 Paul Vassallo, who was their leading tackler last year with 102. Vassallo is listed as their Will linebacker, (which, unless they have a different convention, means weakside) and can fly. He is a former JUCO player and has experience and size (247lb weakside linebacker? Shit, but I suspect he'll move to Mike this year) to be very successful at this level (102 tackles in his first year would confirm that). The starters at 'backer worry me but due to a few spring injuries there is very little depth at that position. The secondary returns second team all PAC 10 cornerback Robert Golden (60 tackles, 13 passes defended). Along with other returning senior Trevin Wade, the secondary should be a strength of the defense, though like the linebackers, there are depth issues.
How We Will Beat Them
Now comes the fun part. With depth issues in the secondary, Zona will have a hard time slowing down Weeden-to-Blackmon (or Whitemon). I think they'll have about 170 yards and 3 touchdowns between them. Now, for fun, let's assume they can slow our passing game down. The Wildcats have lost 3 defensive linemen to the NFL while we have returned our entire line. They have depth issues at both linebacker and corner as well as inexperience at safety. Look for sophomores Joseph Randall and Jeremy Smith along with freshman Herschel Sims and Desmond Roland to have a huge game between them. I believe we will be able to easily rush for about 200 yards and 4 touchdowns. I'm sure Stoops wants to return to the desert swarm defense, but it won't happen this year.
The Arizona passing game will be the biggest threat to our defense but I believe the absolute strength of the D lies in the secondary. I think guys like Markelle Martin (preseason all Big 12), Shaun Lewis (Big 12 co-freshman of the year) and Brodrick Brown will be able to shut down the Zona air attack. Our defensive line should be able to make the Wildcat O line their bitches and while doing so, stuff the 'Cats running game.
Another factor I feel plays into our hands is the time of the game. Both teams have a short week, but we don't have to travel, and will get one more day to practice or rest that week. We both have cupcakes the week before (though I think ULL isn't quite the slump breaker that Northern Arizona is) so the goal for both teams is to win with no injuries and try to get as much rest on the short week as possible. I think our starters will be sipping gatorade and planning their sexual conquests by the start of the 3rd quarter against ULL while Arizona will be trying to break in a bunch of new players and will use their starters longer.
The Official CRFF Meaningless Prediction
This game does not set up well for Arizona. Only returning 10 starters is bad enough. Having one returning offensive lineman is terrible. Considering the offensive firepower we have, the UA defense will be tired by the second quarter (sorta like the last time we played them) and we will pretty much score at will after that. We played a terrible (by our standards) offensive game against them in the Alamo bowl and still blew them out. At home in the Boone Bowl I don't see much hope and think we will have 300 yards passing, 200 yards rushing, and win 55-14 (with one TD coming in garbage time).