The Arizona Wildcats' season finale takes place on New Year’s Eve in a stadium that is a relatively short drive from home. The opponent, Boise State, looks to be one of the tougher offensive teams that Arizona has faced all season.
The Broncos have scored more than 28 points in all 11 wins on the year, while struggling to go over two touchdowns in both losses. Boise State goes as the offense goes and when the defense struggles, the Broncos have been able to outscore teams, as seen in a 60-49 win at New Mexico.
That may have to be the case for Boise State against an Arizona team that can put up numbers with the best of them. The Broncos should rely heavily on running back Jay Ajayi. The junior is the biggest offensive threat against the Wildcats and has rushed for just under 1,700 yards this season.
Ajayi has been held in check a few times so far, being held under 100 yards on three occasions, but he has also exploded for huge days, going over 200 yards twice.
"He runs behind his pads and is physical and has the wiggle,” Arizona defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel said. “He can get out and run. That’s the tough part with a kid like that. You have to get your feet on the ground to make good contact on him and then he moves.
“He is a really good running back with good vision. We better do a good job of handling the things that he does, if not then everything starts with the running game.”
When the run game isn’t working, the Broncos will let Grant Hedrick loose with the passing attack. A redshirt senior, Hedrick leads the nation in completion percentage at a 70-percent clip.
Hedrick has thrown for 3,387 yards and 22 touchdowns. He has also thrown what amounts to an interception per game, but does not usually make many mistakes. When it does go bad, it all goes bad. Of Hedrick’s 13 picks, he threw four against Mississippi and four against Air Force, both of which resulted in losses for the Broncos.
“He’s a calm, collected quarterback,” Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright said. “He makes good decisions and doesn’t make too many mistakes.
“He can get out of the pocket and get the first down when he sees space. Just make sure you stay in front of him and don’t let him get out in open space.”
The quarterback loves to target Ajayi out of the backfield, as seen in his 45 receptions for 536 yards and four touchdowns, but the biggest receiving threat for the Broncos is Shane Williams-Rhodes.
The junior has caught 68 passes for 585 yards and seven touchdowns and has also gotten a handful of touches in the running game, carrying the ball 13 times for 184 yards.
Williams-Rhodes is the threat to catch a handful of balls, but Thomas Sperbeck is the deep ball danger for the Broncos. Just a sophomore, Sperbeck caught 39 balls for a team-high 678 yards, averaging about 17.4 yards per catch.
In order for the Wildcats to beat the Broncos, they will have to find a way to slow down the running game and force Boise State to make mistakes. If not, it could be a long day for the defense.
Keys to the Game: