Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Thursday, November 8, 2012

2012 Arizona Football Preview: Some assembly required

This is the Buffs final road trip of the season; a fact only made notable by the implication that this death march of a season is finally drawing to a close. 

Maybe getting out of Boulder will do the team some good.  Maybe the 2nd and 3rd options at QB will prove more capable now that Jordan Webb has lost confidence.  Maybe the sieve that is the Arizona defense will ignite a fire in the beleaguered CU offense.  If I cared at all, those points might have been enough for me to plan on tuning in Saturday.  As it is, I don't, so I won't.

If you care - and I am by no means saying I think you should - kickoff from the desert is set for 11:30AM.  FX is, once again, ready and willing to submit your eyes to the horror of CU football should you be interested in watching the proceedings.  Radio coverage is on 850 KOA.

Click below for the preview...

When last we met - 

Last season's preview can be found here.

Hey, look!  A win!  It's a big damn miracle!

Last season the largest senior class in program history defended senior day to the tune of a 48-29 stomping of the coachless Wildcats.  The win not only kept the Buffs out of the Pac-12 basement, it also kept the program from suffering through it's first ever winless season at Folsom.  It's a shame that this year's team probably won't be able to live up to that legacy.
Those seniors shook off a lot of heartache to close their careers out like champions.
In his final performance at Folsom Field, senior Rodney Stewart had one of his best days as a Buff, accounting for 204 total yards and three scores.  Additionally senior QB Tyler Hansen (16-26, 213 yards and two scores) repeatedly hooked up with senior WR Toney Clemons (five catches, 115 yards, one TD) to put an exclamation point on the affair.  On defense, senior Travis Sandersfeld lead the way with 11 tackles, one sack, and one interception.

Hell of a way for the 28 to go out.  The best part is they all deserved it.

Opponent's season so far - 

The season started off just dandy for the Wildcats.  Three straight wins had the team in the top-25, and whispers of a dark horse South division run were beginning to blossom.  Week four, however, saw Arizona travel up to Eugene to tithe at the feet of Mt. Nike.

The trip was pure disaster.  While not on the level of the Buffs own venture into the belly of the Duck-beast, anytime you go 0-5 in the red zone and lose 49-0, it's more embarrassment than loss.  The funny thing is, the Wildcat D did a half-decent job slowing down the Chip Kelly fueled Oregon juggernaut.  Arizona remained in the game at half, only down 13-0, and managed to keep the Ducks under 500 yards of offense for the first time on the season.  Hell, the 228 rushing yards surrendered is basically nothing compared to their capabilities.
The loss at Oregon broke the camel's back, and Arizona has struggled since.
The loss at Oregon turned out to be crippling.  Not only did it dump the Wildcats out of the top-25, but it was also the start of a three game losing streak which would sink the season.  I wonder what would've happened had the 'Cats managed to convert a few of those early red zone opportunities in Eugene.  The crippled team still managed to hang in the following two weeks against Oregon St and Stanford, only losing the two games by a combined nine points.  Had they managed to win those, recent wins over Washington and USC would've had them high in the rankings, and definately in contention for a South title.

Last week, however, there was no doubt, as UCLA stomped them 66-10, so it's probably a moot point.

Offense & Defense - 

NCAA Statistical report can be found here.

Ah, the Rich-Rod spread.  Since his early 2000s stints with West Virginia it has tormented defensive coordinators throughout the country.  This season has been no different.  They're best in the conference in passing offense (330 yards per game), and 10th in the nation in total offense (521 yards per).  There is a weakness here, however.  Despite being 4th in the nation in trips to the red zone, they're 98th national in red zone efficiency, only finding the endzone in 30 of the their 53 trips into the redzone.  For a comparison, the Buffs have only managed 24 total trips inside the opponent's 20.

On defense, the unconventional 3-3-5 stack look hasn't been nearly as effective as the new offensive scheme, however.  Arizona ranks last in the conference in total defense, giving up nearly 500 yards per game.  If only the Buffs were competent enough to take advantage...

Star Players - 

Senior QB Matt Scott has been doing an admirable job taking over for the departed Nick Foles, who now toils as Mike Vick's backup in Philadelphia.  He's put up 3,300 yards of total offense so far, and has scored a combined 24 TDs.  He's questionable for Saturday, however, as a concussion he sustained against UCLA has him missing practice.  If he's unable to go, his backup is junior transfer BJ Denker.
Should Scott prove able to go, he's a dangerous dual-threat QB.
Sophomore running back Ka'Deem Carey has proven to be one of the better backs in the conference.  Enjoying life in Rich-Rod's run-first spread, he's already cracked the 1,000 yard barrier, and scored 13 rushing touchdowns.  That output has put him within reach of the schools single season touchdown record, which has stood for nearly 60 years, although a substandard performance against UCLA last week put him off pace.
Carey is one of the best in the West.
On defense, the legacy of Desert Swarm is carried by junior linebackers Jake Fischer and Marquis Flowers.  The pair have combined for 148 tackles, including 15 for loss.  Also of note is junior DB Shaquille Richardson, who has 11 pass break-ups on the year.

Coaching - 

After being ridden out of Ann Arbor on a rail, Rich Rodriguez landed on his feet in Tucson, getting nearly $2 million per year from Arizona.  He of course brought his spread offense and stack defense with him, meaning big changes for the Wildcats.  To his and their credit, they've taken to them pretty quickly, and the team seems more interested and capable then they had under the previous administration.
The hat was probably a bad idea.
I know Michigan fans wouldn't agree, but Rodriguez has been one of college footballs most invigorating figures over the last decade.  His time at West Virginia helped usher in the era of the run-first, no-huddle spread offense.  After a 3-8 start, his final six seasons with the Mountaineers produced 57 wins, and the program finished either first or second in the Big East each season.  That's program building at it's finest.

Prediction - 

What the fuck do you think?  The Buffs will get their shit kicked in.

UofA 63 - CU 6


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