Arizona is looking to rebound from a game in which it was outplayed in every aspect. The Wildcats should be able to find some success against Colorado, who has lost five straight games. CU has only won one game on the year, a 35-34 victory over 2-7 Washington State.
Arizona managed just ten points a week ago after coming into the game with the conference's most powerful offense. Even without quarterback Matt Scott, the U of A should be able to put numbers on the scoreboard against Colorado's defense.
The Buffaloes are giving up an average of 46.2 points this season, while Arizona is scoring 35.9 points a game. However, it is possible those numbers may take a hit without Arizona's regular starting quarterback.
B.J. Denker will likely get the start for the Wildcats, despite having thrown just 23 passes all season. He completed 13 of those passes, with one going for a touchdown. Denker also threw an interception that was returned for a defensive touchdown against Oregon. He may not throw the ball as much as Scott did during the game, but it will depend on how aggressive Colorado's defense is.
If Colorado decides to let Denker throw the ball around, it could end up hurting the team. Despite Denker's 56.5 completion percentage, the Buffaloes have given up 2,638 yards passing this season. It could come back to bite CU if it tries to let Arizona throw the ball.
The Buffs may choose to stop the run, knowing that Denker is somewhat inexperienced. Ka'Deem Carey, the Wildcats' star running back, has plenty of experience and should look to get over 25 carries on the game. While the CU defense has been bad this year, it has been better at stopping the run than the pass, which is something that should be considered in Colorado's game plan.
On the offensive side of the ball, Arizona isn't quite sure what it will see from Colorado. Earlier this week, Head Coach Jon Embree announced that Jordan Webb would no longer be the Buffs' starting quarterback. Instead, the Wildcats will see either Connor Wood or Nick Hirschman.
Neither of the sophomores has found much success in the time they have seen this season. Both have thrown 29 passes, with Wood completing 14 and Hirschman completing 13 and both having thrown two interceptions. Whoever starts, if things aren't going well for Colorado, both should see the field at one point or another.
Running the ball has been one of the things Colorado has actually found some success with this year. The tandem of freshman Christian Powell and sophomore Tony Jones averages just less than 100 yards per game. They have combined for seven rushing touchdowns and could eclipse the 100=yard mark if Colorado can exploit Arizona's run defense.
A week ago, many marked the Colorado game as an easy win that should let the Wildcats rest before heading to Utah. However, with the loss to UCLA and the lack of Matt Scott, the game may become closer than previously thought.
Both teams are worn from a long season so far, but the Wildcats shouldn't take Colorado lightly. The momentum of the game will come down to how well B.J. Denker can run Arizona's offense. If he thrives, Arizona wins big. If he struggles, the game could get interesting.
Players to watch:
QBs, Nick Hirschman and Connor Wood – Both quarterbacks are in the running for the starting job. The sophomores have almost identical stats on the season while playing in mop-up time. It shouldn't matter who starts, as both are likely to get a shot against the Wildcats.
#46 FB, Christian Powell – The freshman is a very powerful running back who can give Arizona a serious problem. He runs straight through the middle of the field, which is exactly what the Wildcats had problems with last week.
#44 TE, Nick Kasa – As a big tight end, Kasa should be on every Arizona defender's mind. He can block or slip through the defense and grab a quick pass. The Wildcats have had trouble with tight ends this season and Kasa is under the radar enough that he could slip between defenders a few times.
#1 LB, Derrick Webb – Webb leads the defense in tackles and should be surrounded by his teammates in the box on Saturday. He is fast and all over the field on defense. Expect plenty of Carey and Webb clashes in the middle of the field.
#96 DL Chidera Uzo-Diribe – Arizona's worst nightmare on Saturday is having Denker get hit. Uzo-Diribe is the one player on the CU defense that can consistently find himself in Arizona's backfield and it wouldn't be a surprise to see a double team on him for a majority of the game.
Keys to the game:
1. Be disciplined: Arizona is averaging 14.5 penalties in the last two weeks after just 6 per game over the first seven contests. The Wildcats can't afford to give Colorado free yards or make the game any harder for themselves.
2. Get in the backfield: Regardless of who starts the game for the Buffs, it will be the quarterback's first ever start. Shaking him up early could lessen his composure for the remainder of the game.
3. Score Early: Arizona has won every game that it has scored on the first offensive possession. There may be something to say about the momentum that the team takes away from the opening drive.
In addition, Arizona's offense should be powerful enough to pull away if it can get out to an early lead. Allowing Colorado to stick around only hurts the Wildcats.
4. Take what Colorado gives: With Scott out of the game, Arizona should be running the ball even more than usual. However, if Colorado loads the box, the Wildcats should air it out. The Buffs shouldn't be able to stand toe-to-toe with Arizona's offense, so the offense needs to be smart about attacking where Colorado lets it.
5. Stop the run: Johnathan Franklin rushed for 162 yards against Arizona a week ago. Given, Powell and Jones aren't on the same level, but they are still good enough to be a major threat to the Arizona defense. They should be given plenty of attention.