Arizona will face a decent FCS team in South Carolina State on Saturday, but the Wildcats shouldn't have too hard of a time if they come out ready to play.
The Bulldogs' defense has had a good and bad showing on the season so far. They gave up just six points on the road in the season opener against Georgia State, but then gave up 27 to Bethune-Cookman in their own stadium.
The defense is giving up just 286 yards per game, but the competition has been less-than-elite, even at the FCS level. Add in to the mix that neither team ran a high-scoring offense, and you have to take the team stats with a grain of salt when it comes to Arizona's offense.
As far as individual play goes, Joe Thomas has been the standout for the Bulldogs. He leads the team in tackles, and could be a thorn in the Wildcats' paw if they decide to run the ball a lot on Saturday. He enjoys blitzing and can get into the backfield quickly.
Arizona should have an easy time putting up numbers against SCSU, but the real weakness for the Bulldogs is the tempo. If the Wildcats can push the speed of the game, then SCSU will get tired towards the end of the game. The Oklahoma State defense was struggling to keep up in the fourth quarter and there's no reason to expect anything different this weekend.
Players to watch:
#48 MLB, Joe Thomas – As the team's leading tackler, Thomas is going to be a focal point for the Arizona offense this weekend. He plays a similar role to that of Jake Fischer on Arizona's defense. Thomas is usually in the right place at the right time and doesn't miss many tackles.
Thomas is quick and can get behind the line of scrimmage quickly, racking up three tackles for loss already. The offensive line will have to be cautious of a delayed blitz coming from the linebackers.
#43 WLB, Justin Hughes – Just like Thomas, Hughes is a potent defender. He is relentless in pursuit, averaging seven and a half tackles per game. He is one of the heaviest blitzers on the defense, already sacking the quarterback four times on the season. Throw that in with his hard hitting ability to force fumbles and he could be an offense stopper.
The real question is whether or not he will be able to keep up with the quickness of Matt Scott and Ka'Deem Carey. It's not likely, but if he can, the offense will have to find another point of attack.
#11 DOG, Cortney Ingram – Ingram is a do-all defender for South Carolina State. He tackles, blitzes, and defends passes. He's only a junior, but he has the ability to be an all-conference player. Ingram was named the team's Special Teams MVP last season and there's a reason, as he is multi-faceted.
#97 NG, Javon Hargrave – He is a true freshman, but Hargrave is making a name for himself already. The 6-foot-2, 295-pound nose guard has been abusing offensive lines, picking up a sack and multiple tackles for loss.
Hargrave is a big lineman, but is also very quick and can easily slip past an offensive lineman that is underestimating his speed. His raw talent is a bright spot on the SCSU defense.
#30 CB, Darius Drummond – Coming in as the defensive leader, Drummond has had a slow start so far this season. He has played well for the most part, breaking up a team-high three passes, but has also been beaten a couple times.
The cornerback also doubles as the Bulldogs' punt returner. After returning a punt for a touchdown a season ago and averaging almost 14 yards a return, this season he has been bottled up and held to negative four yards in three returns. He will be looking to change that if the defense can force Arizona to punt.
Keys to the game:
1. Don't underestimate: Arizona put up 59 points against Oklahoma State a week ago and should look to improve on that this week.
Arizona needs to come out with the same intensity that it showed in the upset and attack the defense, looking for record numbers.
2. Continue to limit mistakes: Again, Arizona put 59 points on the scoreboard last weekend. However, after the game, there was the general feeling that there were points that the Wildcats left on the field and couldn't capitalize on.
If Rich Rodriguez thinks that his team can be more efficient in the scoring department, there's no reason not to believe him. Arizona needs to continue the improvement in this area.
3. Roll with the momentum: After an unprecedented 2-0 start for Rodriguez, the Wildcats have all the momentum against a team that was just shown up on their home turf by a rival.
Matt Scott and Ka'Deem Carey are riding an offensive wave that has made them nationally relevant. The Wildcats should look to get back into the zone again this weekend.
4. Tempo, tempo, and more tempo: Arizona is averaging 89 offensive plays per game. South Carolina State's defense is averaging 61 plays per game. The faster the Wildcats' tempo, the less rest the Bulldogs' will have.
Regardless of whether the game is close (it shouldn't be), the SCSU defense will be gassed late in the second half.
5. Be able to rest: Rich Rodriguez likes to play one game at a time and rightfully so, but if the starters can take care of business in the first half of the game, they can get some much needed rest.
The offense is averaging 89 plays a game and the defense is at 93 plays. The problem with the defense is that Defensive Coordinator Jeff Casteel is only playing about 16 players. The Wildcats should look to put the game away early and get the starters some rest.