TUCSON, Ariz. — Jason Scheer covers Arizona football for the Wildcat Authority and knows the team as well as anyone. We asked Scheer five questions to gain a better perspective on Utah's next opponent.
1. Arizona has some very good wins on its record, some tough losses and, most recently, a blowout loss to UCLA and a win over a terrible Colorado team. Where is this team at right now leading up to its matchup against Utah and what has contributed most to the team's inconsistency?
"It is really hard to describe where Arizona is right now because there has been a lot of inconsistency. What we do know is that the defense is likely going to struggle because, besides the power of the offense, that has been the most consistent part of the Wildcats this season. Rich Rodriguez took over a program that had little-to-no depth and there have been injuries on defense that have made it extremely difficult for Arizona to compete on that side of the ball.
"The UCLA game was easily the worst Arizona has played this season and much of that had to do with the simple fact that the Bruins were just more talented and bigger. Arizona got blown off the ball defensively and got down by so much so quickly that the offense became relatively predictable."
2. Rich Rodriguez has improved the team record-wise in his first year. What changes has he made to the program and are fans generally happy with what he's done so far?
"He gave Arizona an identity, which is something it never had with Mike Stoops. While Rodriguez wants his team to be better defensively, it is almost always going to be known for the pace and success it has on offense. It does something unique and Arizona has never really had an identity since the Dick Tomey era.
"In addition, Rodriguez has brought the message that he believes he can win at Arizona. He will be the first to tell everybody that it will not be easy, but he is believable when he says that it is possible. The players have brought in the most and that level of respect has not only benefitted Arizona this season, but will likely do the same in the future as well."
3. Arizona runs a very prolific offense. Can you describe the offense and who are the primary playmakers?
"The offense itself actually is not very difficult. It is based on being quick and catching the defense off guard while also executing flawlessly. The coaching staff is not afraid to call the same play multiple times in a row if it is having success and you will often see Arizona go to the same type of play until the defense stops it.
"The offense goes as Matt Scott and Ka’Deem Carey let it. If either struggles, the offense as a whole struggles. Arizona could probably survive an off night from Carey because Scott has been that good this season, but history has shown us that the Wildcats almost have no chance when Scott is struggling.
"Figuring he plays this weekend and is recovered from the concussion, Arizona’s offensive success is largely going to be based on what he can do on Saturday."
4. The Wildcats have struggled on defense. Can you describe the type of defense Arizona runs and who are the primary playmakers on that side of the ball?
"Arizona runs a 3-3-5 defense that is very unique to the Pac-12 conference. It basically has three linemen that put pressure on the offensive line and create situations for blitzing linebackers and defensive backs. The biggest issue with the defense is that the line has struggled to maintain its presence in the gaps and put pressure on the opposing quarterback.
"In terms of playmakers, there are not a ton on defense. Jared Tevis is a walk-on safety, but has played very well despite being undersized. Marquis Flowers has moved from safety to linebacker and done pretty well there. The best player on defense is likely Tra’Mayne Bondurant. Arizona will use him to blitz quite a bit, but he can also drop back in coverage. If the defensive is successful, it usually means Bondurant had a great night."
5. This is obviously a huge game for Utah and will likely determine its bowl eligibility. How does Arizona regard Utah as an opponent and what does it need to accomplish to get out of Salt Lake City with a victory?
"I’m not sure I have heard Arizona speak as highly about an opponent as it has Utah this week. Every player and coach has said that Utah is likely the most physical opponent Arizona has faced this season and Rodriguez has been consistent in saying that Arizona needs to be mentally and physically tough to win.
"In order to win, Arizona has to contain the run. The game plan for each opponent the past few weeks has been to run right at Arizona and it has worked for the most part. It is easy to predict that John White will run right at Arizona and while it is unlikely the Wildcats can stop him, containment is a key to winning the game."