Coming off an enormous victory over Oklahoma State at home, the Arizona Wildcats will host their third home contest in a row when South Carolina State comes to town to face UA. It's going to be an extremely tough task for a Bulldogs' squad that is really nothing more than a middle-of-the-pack FCS football program.
On the offensive side of the ball, SCSU doesn't possess a very explosive offense, but tends to run a spread formation and keep the tempo at a fast pace – something Arizona is already used to defending.
The Bulldogs tend to produce more on the ground through the air. As a team, South Carolina State has averaged 177.5 rushing yards per game over the first two contests, which is good for 37th in the FCS. Running back Jalen Simmons and quarterback Richard Cue have produced at an equal rate on the ground. Simmons has totaled 109 rushing yards through two contests compared to 107 from Cue.
Arizona, despite its own fair share of defensive struggles early on, is a much stronger defense than what SCSU has faced to date and its advantage athletically should play a huge role on Saturday. The Wildcats have been very lenient when it comes to defending the run so far and it wouldn't be surprising to see them try to attack Arizona's defense on the ground and often.
Through the air is a different story. Averaging 185.5 passing yards per game as a team, the Bulldogs rank 57th nationally among FCS teams. Cue is only completing passes at a rate of 47.4 percent and has thrown one more interception than touchdowns.
Wide receiver Caleb Davis has compiled 143 receiving yards thus far while the team's second leading wideout – Lennel Elmore – is averaging 26.8 yards per reception. Outside of those two players, the playmakers in the passing game are few and far between. Tyler McDonald leads the team in touchdown receptions with two, but has only one reception outside of that pair of scores.
The offensive line of SCSU is going to have its hands full with UA's style of attack. While the pass-rush has struggled somewhat, UA possesses a level of talent that the Bulldogs shouldn't be able hang with. Even if the Wildcats surrender yardage sporadically on Saturday, expect them to attack the backfield and disrupt SDSU's flow. If successful, Arizona should be able to stop the South Carolina State offense dead in its tracks.
#17 – QB, Richard Cue – The signal caller can make plays with his feet as evident by his 107 rushing yards over two games. Cue struggles with his throwing accuracy and is facing an Arizona defense that – while giving up plenty of yardage – has developed a knack for making plays in the secondary. If the Wildcats contain him on the ground, Cue will have trouble in all other areas of his game.
#4 – RB, Jalen Simmons – At 5-foot-8, Simmons is a shifty, quick back who can make defenses miss. He has been suspect for much of the first two games outside of one 43-yard carry, but UA has had difficulty defending the run this year. Simmons will likely be asked to do a lot early and the Bulldogs hope he is up to the task against a Pac-12 squad.
#82 – WR, Caleb Davis – The junior wideout has 13 receptions over two games and will be targeted often by Cue. Arizona will need to keep an eye on Davis due to his production, but if the unit can disrupt Cue in the pocket, Davis may not get much of a chance. If he can somehow get going, however, he could be a thorn in the side of the Wildcats' defense.
#1 – WR, Lennel Elmore – The 5-foot-10 receiver has displayed big playmaking ability this season, including a 72-yard touchdown pass in the opening contest. Elmore is a fast wideout who can run past the defense and UA fans should expect to see him involved on offense consistently this Saturday.
Five keys to the game
1. Stick to the plan: All Arizona has to do is performed how it has over the first two weeks and it will win this contest rather easily. South Carolina State isn't the same caliber of football team as Oklahoma State or Toledo and the Wildcats should be able to win this game running away if they continue to stick to their game plan.
2. Disrupt the backfield: Cue is going to need to throw the ball effectively if the Bulldogs want to hang around in this game. He has been far from accurate in his first two games and if UA can pressure him early, it will be able to bury SCSU quickly. As for Simmons, his yards-per-carry average has been mediocre even with one long rush of 43 yards. If he can't find consistent success on the ground, the Bulldogs are in for a very difficult contest.
3. Don't fall asleep: When teams like Arizona lose to squads like South Carolina State, it's largely due to players lacking an interest in the game, mainly because of the opponent. As long as UA brings the same level of intensity it did over the first two contests, it should have no issues with a possible upset on Saturday.
4. Prevent big plays: While Arizona should be able to prevent a team like SCSU from racking up the yardage, the Bulldogs have a couple of receivers in Davis and Elmore that possess big-play potential. If they are able to produce, South Carolina State may be able to make the Wildcats nervous.
5. Don't look ahead: One of the biggest traps in any sport at any level of competition is looking past the current foe due to a perceivably better opponent approaching on the schedule. With a huge road game against Oregon in the very near future, UA must focus on the task of beating SCSU before shifting its attention over to the highly-ranked Ducks.
SCSU Offensive Preview
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