This weekend, the Wildcats will face the Oregon State Beavers, who are coming off two straight wins against ranked opponents. The Beavers held Wisconsin to just seven points in the second week of the season and edged UCLA 27-20 last weekend, improving their record to 2-0.
Oregon State's defense has been impressive in the two showings this season. Overall, the defensive strength is in the run defense. The Beavers are yielding just 53.5 rushing yards per game, which could be a problem for the Cats, who can struggle without an effective run game.
The defensive line has been fantastic, picking up five sacks on the season. Trench play has been a strength for Oregon State in the past, but it is especially strong this season.
Sophomore Scott Crichton is a big body on the line that is not easily blocked and is responsible for two of OSU's five sacks to go along with seven tackles.
In addition to the line, the linebackers, led by D.J. Welch, are also responsible for the low rushing yards. They close gaps quickly and tackle efficiently, not allowing too many players to slip by and into the open field.
The Beavers have given up considerably more yards (272 per game) through the air, including 372 yards to UCLA last week. This could be good news for the Wildcats, who have found success throwing the football this season.
Rashaad Reynolds, Oregon State's leading tackler, patrols a secondary that has bent, but not broken this season. The secondary has given up a few big plays this season, but has clamped down when needed.
It will be interesting to see if Arizona's offense can bounce back from the disastrous showing against Oregon. The Beavers' defense may be better than the Ducks', but Arizona playing at home should give it a special comfort that was missing on the road.
Players to watch:
#95 DE, Scott Crichton – The sophomore is special. He has knocked down two passes at the line of scrimmage and leads the team in sacks. Arizona has only given up seven sacks on the season, which makes the trench war that much more exciting with Crichton attacking Matt Scott.
#16 CB, Rashaad Reynolds – The junior corner leads the team in tackles this season and seems to always be where the ball is. He has broken up two passes this season, despite not being tested very often. He may cause issues for Wildcat receivers, who are coming off a tough game themselves. His performance should have an impact on the defense as a whole.
#4 LB, D.J. Welch – OSU's second leading tackler, Welch is a do-it-all linebacker. He is just a sophomore, but is fast to the ball and has a knack for reading plays faster than average.
Welch made a name for himself last season by leading the team in special teams tackles and has continued that this season. Welch could jar a few Wildcats with his big hit ability.
Keys to the game:
1. Recover: Arizona's offense was atrocious on the road against Oregon. The good news is that the Wildcats get to return home to face one of the toughest defenses that they may face all season long.
The offense has to forget about the previous struggles and move on to the new week. That could be the biggest challenge of the week.
2. Turnovers: The Wildcats had a season-high five turnovers against Oregon, including two interceptions that went for touchdowns.
It can be mentioned that most of Arizona's turnovers were crucial turning points in the momentum of the game. The Wildcats can't win if they give the ball away like they did last weekend.
3. Run game: Oregon State may be the best run defense in the entire Pac-12. That is bad news for Arizona, which needs the run game to open up the offense. That being said, the Wildcats can do some serious damage to the Beavers if they can find success running the ball early on.
4. Capitalize: Take away the fact that Arizona failed to score in five trips to the red zone and you see that Arizona averaged a starting field position at midfield during the first half of the Oregon game, including three times in enemy territory. The Wildcats have to take advantage of opportunities given to them if they expect to win against the Beavers.
5. Score early: Momentum is riding low for the offense coming into the game. It is important for the offense to put points on the board early. The more drives that Arizona comes up scoreless on, the worse the offense will feel. It could be easy for confidence to drop and let the game get away.