Wildcats look to end losing streak

Arizona will face Colorado on Saturday in a game between two desperate teams. Read on for a breakdown of who to watch and what to expect Saturday.

One can almost guarantee that neither Colorado head coach Jon Embree or Arizona interim head coach Tim Kish foresaw that when the Buffaloes and the Wildcats take the field on Saturday that they'd be doing it under these circumstances.

After all, the two teams have combined for a 3-16 record this season, including a 1-12 mark in the Pac-12. Colorado and Arizona rank 11th and 12th in the conference in defense, respectively. Needless to say, things have been better from a football perspective in both Boulder and Tucson.

For Colorado, its transition to the Pac-12 could not have gone less smoothly in Embree's first season as head coach. The team has been absolutely ravaged with injuries at just about every position on the field, and week in and week out, the Buffaloes are finding it more and more difficult to remain competitive.

On Arizona's side, the firing of Mike Stoops has not solved any of the team's problems in its three games of the post-Stoops era. A 48-12 romp of UCLA gave the Wildcats their first win over an FBS opponent in a 355-day stretch, but the young, mistake-prone team that dropped five of its first six has reappeared after losses to Washington and Utah.

For one team, the road to recovery begins Saturday, and for the other, it will be left searching for answers. Make no mistake about it, while bowl berths and conference championships are definitely not at stake in this game, something perhaps more important is: pride.

Both each individual player's own personal pride, as well as pride in their respective institution is at stake on Saturday for both two teams in their showdown at Folsom Field in Boulder. One team will leave with it, the other will continue to meddle in mediocrity and continue its search for the road to recovery and restoration of former glories.

Trophies aren't at stake, and the winner certainly won't grab any headlines in securing a victory. But these two teams have an opportunity to come and rally together in the pursuit of something that has been so elusive to both the Arizona and Colorado this year, and get a taste of victory; something that every Wildcat and Buffalo is certainly starving for.

Players to watch:

#5- RB,Rodney Stewart: The CU running back has missed two games this season with injuries, but while on the field he is the focal point of the offense. Stewart is the 10th ranked rusher in the Pac-12 and averages over four yards per carry. Colorado will look to get him the ball early and often and let him carry the entire unit down the field and put it in position to pass the ball more effectively.

#6-, WR,Paul Richardson: In the September 10th contest against California, Richardson burst onto the Pac-12 scene with an 11 reception, 284 yard game in which he also had a pair of touchdowns. Since then, Richardson has 20 receptions for 208 yards and three touchdowns and has missed four games with a knee injury. While his production has been reduced dramatically since the Cal game, that performance is enough cause to force the Arizona defense to give him serious attention.

#17- WR, Toney Clemons: With Richardson missing so much action, Clemons has stepped up as the team's primary target. His six touchdowns lead the team and he's CU's primary red zone option as well, making him someone that the Arizona secondary will definitely have to account for at all times.

#7- S, Anthony Perkins: The front seven for Colorado has been a serious problem this season, forcing Perkins to play further down in the box in run support. He's yet to record an interception this season, but he's second on the team in tackles and will likely be near the ball wherever it goes on Saturday.

#9- DE, Chidera Uzo-Diribe: No active Colorado defensive lineman, aside from Uzo-Diribe, has recorded a sack this season. The sophomore ranks fourth in the Pac-12 in sacks with 5.5, and if there's anyone on the defensive line that the Arizona offensive line is going to focus on preventing from getting to Foles, it would be Uzo-Diribe.

#26- S, Ray Polk: Polk is tough as nails, fighting through numerous injuries this season to miss only one game and still being the team's leading tackler. He's recorded one of the team's four interceptions on the season, and like Perkins, he'll be a ball magnet on Saturday and will be essential to any hope that Colorado has of slowing down the Arizona offense.

Keys to the game

1. Run the ball: Colorado has the worst run defense in the Pac-12, giving Arizona an excellent opportunity to take a little bit of pressure off of Nick Foles and move the ball down the field on the ground.

2. Reduce penalties: Against Utah, Arizona had 11 penalties for nearly 100 yards and effectively stalled its own drives while prolonging Utah's. For an offense that struggles as mightily as CU's does, UA can ill-afford to give it any sort of help or extra opportunities in what surely will be a wild game.

3. Stop the run: With how reliant CU is on Stewart, and with quarterback Tyler Hansen completing just 56 percent of his throws, neutralizing Stewart in the ground game puts Arizona at a tremendous advantage. If the game comes down to a battle between Hansen and Foles, Arizona has to like its chances at victory.

4. Pressure Hansen: CU has allowed a Pac-12 worst 29 sacks this season, which often forces its quarterback into poor attempts and low percentage throws. Something has to give in a matchup which pits Arizona, which ranks 114th in the nation in sacks, and Colorado, which ranks as the nation's 115th team in sacks allowed. Putting pressure on Hansen will be crucial for UA, especially in matchups versus Richardson and Clemons.

5. Show up: Officially eliminated from postseason competition, it would be easy for Arizona to leave its competitive spirit and intensity in Tucson for the road trip to Boulder. This team owes it to itself to finish out the season the best way possible, and that begins on Saturday with a very winnable game against a Colorado team still looking for its first conference win.

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