Arizona has obstacles to overcome

In order for Arizona to make a bowl, the Wildcats have numerous obstacles to overcome. Read on to see what they are and what Arizona needs to do to overcome them.

The Arizona Wildcats are facing a tough second half of the schedule and have a long list of questions and concerns that they currently face.

Ever since optimism flooded the fan base after three games, excitement has been tempered by three consecutive losses, two of which could have gone UA's way.

So does Arizona have any legitimate chance the right the ship? Sure, but a lot of the problems the team has faced are going to have to be addressed (and fixed) or UA is going to be left out of the bowl picture for the second consecutive season.

The challenges that face the Wildcats over the next six games are in abundance and on both sides of the ball.

They are so prevalent that it's really hard to imagine the Wildcats completely turning it around and making anything more than a six-win bowl, but that doesn't mean that significant improvement is completely out of the realm of possibility.

What has to happen, you ask? Well, there are players playing vital positions that must step up and perform at a higher level or contribute more, mostly on the defensive side of the ball. If certain components of the roster start working more efficiently, Arizona has enough contributors to defeat just about anyone remaining on the schedule.

Much of Arizona's problem on the defensive side of the ball has been with the opposition's passing game. Opponents have been picking apart Arizona's secondary mainly due to the combination of a lack of pass rush and a depleted secondary, but if just one player can step up it could alter how teams attack Arizona's defense.

Shaquille Richardson has been picked on by opposing quarterbacks for a season-and-a-half now, but that was in complete contrast to a promising freshman year in 2010. Teams have figured out Richardson since then and he has had a difficult time adjusting.

A turnaround by Richardson would be crucial to the defense. Jonathan McKnight has been more than solid on the opposite side and while he has made a few mistakes this year himself, a big load will be taken off his shoulders if Richardson can learn to adapt to the adjustments that have been made to him since the start of the 2011 season.

Many of Arizona's problems with its passing defense can be directly attributed to the team's lack of pass rush. None of the squad's linebackers outside of Marquis Flowers pose any sort of pass rushing threat and the defensive lineman on the roster have been neutralized by just about every defensive line it has gone up against.

In the final six games, opponents are going to continue picking apart the UA secondary if the defense can't figure out a way to put pressure on the quarterback.

Whether it comes from the linemen, linebackers, secondary or whomever, pressure must be put on the quarterback. If not, given who UA has still yet to face, the final six games are going to be a very tough stretch.

The rushing defense hasn't fared much better either. Oregon State running back Storm Woods and Stanford rusher Stepfan Taylor have gashed the UA defense in consecutive games without much resistant from the Wildcats.

It's really been a constant theme throughout the first six games and a big reason why UA hasn't been able to control the tempo of games for an entire 60 minutes. Opposing coaches have recognized this and have been able to run the ball consistently through the heart of the UA defense.

The defensive tackles have struggled mightily from the get go. Whether it's Tevin Hood, Willie Mobley, Kirifi Taula or any one of the various defensive tackles that have seen the field, someone has to improve and become a rock in the middle of the line.

As of now, it's seemingly too easy for opposing offenses to avoid any trouble with the Arizona defensive line. If that doesn't change, don't expect too much success from Arizona in the second half.

The offense has been much better than the defense this season, but that doesn't mean that the unit doesn't have areas that require immediate attention.

For starters, someone other than Ka'Deem Carey must contribute to the running game. Behind Carey is a lot of unproven talent and someone like Daniel Jenkins, Kylan Butler or Jared Baker has to come in and take a little pressure off Carey.

In Rich Rodriguez's offense, the run has been essential in the past and while the team ranks third in the Pac-12 in rushing offense, a lot of the load is being shouldered by Carey and given how many plays the offense runs on average, that could take its toll by the end of the season.

Arizona must also become a better team in the red zone. The lack of consistent success when the team is in position to score has been very frustrating to Wildcat fans.

Only Washington State and Utah convert on a lower percentage of red zone opportunities than UA in the Pac-12 and neither of those offenses are anywhere near the caliber of Arizona's.

The lack of capitalization on scoring chances has hindered UA in at least two games this season and it could be more problematic as the rest of the season progresses.

However, if the Wildcats can start converting at a higher rate, they will be able to pull out more than just three wins in the second half.

It's really tough to judge Arizona after six games because it's really been two completely different squads.

While certain problems have lingered since the opening game, the more serious problems have emerged since the beginning of the Pac-12 schedule.

What has to happen in the second half is that UA must get that confidence back that it gained against Oklahoma State in the second win of the season.

Arizona doesn't even have to correct every single solitary problem that arises on the football field – not even the best team in the country is perfect – but it has to believe in themselves and not play hesitant.

The coaching staff deserves credit for what it has been able to do with this team, especially when you look at the talent it was left with.

While it seems that there are a ton of issues, there is also plenty of positives to take away.

However, these next few games could determine what people decide to focus on the most.

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