Arizona opens up Pac-12 play

Arizona will face off against California on Saturday night. Read on to find out about the game, including Sonny Dykes return to Tucson, what players to watch out for, and more.

With Pac-12 play starting, the Arizona Wildcats will host the California Golden Bears in a White-Out game.

The game will be the conference opener for both teams and at the end of it, only one will still be undefeated.

California is 2-0 on the young season with a road win at Northwestern and a home-opener victory over Sacramento State. The Golden Bears had a bye last week while Arizona was gutting out a win over Nevada.

The game will also mark the return to Tucson for California Head Coach Sonny Dykes. He was the offensive coordinator for Arizona from 2007 to 2009 during the Mike Stoops era.

"I really liked being in Tucson, loved working at the University,” he said. “I felt it was a great home atmosphere and always felt like it was one of the best atmospheres to play in the Pac-12. I enjoyed living in Tucson."

Dykes will bring his sophomore quarterback, Jared Goff, and efficient passing game to the desert when he returns. Goff kept the Golden Bears in the game against Arizona last season and has been effective for California so far in 2014.

"He’s got a NFL arm, big guy, sees the field well, and he’s a tough competitor," Rodriguez said. "It looks like to me he’s even bigger and stronger now. He had the off-season to fix his shoulder up, so he is throwing the ball even better than he did last year and he was good last year. He’s a talented guy and against a pretty talented Northwestern team up there they moved the ball pretty efficiently."

The sophomore has thrown for 510 yards and seven touchdowns combined in the two games this season. He has been shared some snaps with true freshman Luke Rubenzer. The rookie has played in both games so far, averaging fifty yards passing in each contest.

The quarterbacks will be the key to the offense for California as the Wildcats have been able to shut down opposing running games so far this season. It will be important for the Golden Bears to get good production from Kenny Lawler, Trevor Davis, Bryce Treggs, and the rest of Cal's highly regarded receivers.

On the other side of the ball, the Golden Bears' defense leaves a lot to be desired. That is not to say that the Cal defense is bad, but there are still a lot of questions after two games so far this season, as it gave up 24 points to a Northwestern team that struggled to move the football in their only other game, a 24-15 loss to Southern Illinois.

The secondary has some decent players as well, but the biggest surprise has been Griffin Piatt. The sophomore burst onto the scene for the Golden Bears this season, snagging two interceptions already after being a practice squad player last season.

Arizona will also have to look out for Todd Barr. The junior defensive end hasn't been an incredibly productive performer for the Golden Bears, but he has come up big at certain times and has two sacks for a combined loss of twenty yards. The Wildcats' front line has been good in terms of protecting Solomon this season, but the freshman has a tendency to hold onto the ball

The game won't be easy for Arizona by any means, but it is going to be a good test for the Wildcats to open up Pac-12 play.

Players to Watch:

#8, QB Luke Rubenzer: The freshman has seen seen time in place of Jared Goff in certain packages and can make big plays. The Wildcats will need to contain Rubenzer on Saturday in order to win the game.

#7, LB Jalen Jefferson: Probably the best player on the California defense, Jefferson will likely be all over the field on Saturday. It would be wise for Arizona to play away from him, but that may not be possible as the junior seems to have been wherever the ball was in the first two games.

#10, WR Darius Powe: California's second leading receiver, Powe will be an important player to keep on eye on. He has the speed to beat the secondary deep and has used his size to catch seven balls in the first two games. Fortunately for him, those catches have been for big gains.

Keys to the Game:

  • Force turnovers: Arizona is undefeated under Rich Rodriguez when it wins the turnover battle and rightfully so. The Wildcats will need to force mistakes by the Golden Bears if they want a chance to pull away.

  • Open the playbook: Rich Rodriguez needs to pull out some of the stops against California. It is early in the season, but winning this game could mean the difference in a quality bowl or a mediocre one at the end of the season. If the game is close, Arizona should play aggressive and get creative with the play calling.

  • Control the clock: A week ago, Nevada controlled the entire pace of the game and Arizona nearly paid for it. The Wildcats need to have as many scoring opportunities as possible and for that to happen, the game needs to have a fast pace.

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