Arizona has been decent against the run this season, allowing 132.3 yards per game. Arizona operates out of a 4-3 defensive system that plays most offenses straight up without a lot of gimmicks. The Wildcats will field a lot of youth at the defensive end positions, starting a freshman and a sophomore, while both of their defensive tackles are juniors with a lot of playing experience.
At linebacker they're led by middle linebacker Ronnie Palmer, who is flanked by a consistent rotation at both strong side and weak side linebacker.
Most fans feel that the Cougar offense left too much of their potency as a legitimate and even dominating running attack on the field against Utah in the last game of the regular season. The Cougar offensive line is senior-laden and going up against an Arizona defense that can be run against by the right opponent.
Prognosis: A glance over the games this past season indicates that Arizona can be run against, as several teams have put up good yardage against the Wildcats. After the subpar offensive performance against Utah, a lot of reevaluation has taken place and fans should expect more dedication to the potentially dominating Cougar run game come Saturday.
Look for Harvey Unga to be well rested and to have his biggest game of the year. As mentioned, the Cougar offensive line is senior-laden, and they're very intent on going out on a high note. Should the Cougars commit to the run, then they should see some good success against the Wildcat defensive front.
What I'll be Watching: I'll be watching to see how BYU's interior line matches up with Arizona's stud defensive tackles. Both Donald Horton and Earl Mitchell are good and experienced, but so is BYU's interior line of Dallas Reynolds, Ray Feinga and Travis Bright. I'll be watching to see how both lines stack up and who is getting the necessary push come Saturday.
BYU pass offense vs. Arizona:
The Arizona defense has been very good against the pass this year, having given up just 169 passing yards per game. The Wildcats field a very experienced secondary with two seniors and two juniors, and they'll be playing a lot of zone and cover-three defense against the Cougars.
Arizona doesn't blitz a lot, but they're very good with how they defend the pass. When their four-man rush is effective they've proven to be extremely stingy, as one would expect.
The Cougar pass offense needs to rebound and not turn the ball over after a woeful performance in their last outing against Utah. The onus is on quarterback Max Hall to make the necessary adjustments after an awful performance against the Utes.
Prognosis: Look for offensive coordinator Robert Anae to take some pressure off Max Hall by letting the running game work, hopefully enabling a better and more prolific passing attack. Hall has been extremely focused in the weeks leading up to the Las Vegas Bowl, and fans should expect Hall and the Cougar passing offense to rebound nicely against Arizona.
What I'll be Watching: I'll be looking to see how effectively BYU's front five block against the four-man rush Arizona brings on most occasions. Arizona has very good cover guys, and should the four-man rush get to Hall, then the Cougar passing attack will take a hit in potential production. Matt Reynolds has proven capable of pass blocking just about anyone, so there isn't much worry there, but the key matchup will be how David Oswald fares in blocking Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore, who have combined for 11 sacks on the year.
BYU rush defense vs. Arizona
Arizona will present a potent running attack with Nick Grigsby as their primary running back. Grigsby is a good combo back who gets through the hole extremely quick with his 5-foot-10-inch, 194-pound frame. Grigsby will be spelled by speedster Keola Antolin, who provides a great change of pace. As a team, the Wildcats average 162 rushing yards per game.
The Cougars have had problems defending the run this year, although they showed some improvement against Utah in the last game. Arizona runs a more traditional offense than they've faced in recent weeks and will be running straight at the Cougars on most occasion instead of depending on the misdirection the Cougar defense faced in the latter part of the regular season.
Prognosis: The Cougar linebackers are going to have to play downhill and play downhill fast against a potent Arizona running attack. Arizona should get their yards against a susceptible Cougar run defense, but if the Cougars can hold Arizona to under 100 yards rushing, it should spell victory for BYU come Saturday.
What I'll be Watching: I'll be watching how aggressive the Cougar inside linebackers are in filling gaps to stop the Wildcat running attack. Matt Ah You showed great improvement against Utah and hopefully that continues, along with improved play from Matt Bauman, Shawn Doman and the rest.
BYU pass defense vs. Arizona
Arizona averages 237 passing yards per game with well seasoned senior quarterback Willie Tuitama at the helm. The Wildcat passing attack is centered around receiver Michael Thomas and All-American tight end Rob Gronkowski. Both players are as good as the Cougars will have faced this past year at their respective positions.
The Cougar pass defense hasn't allowed much long, but it's the flats where they've had problems covering opposing offenses. This doesn't bode well for the Cougars given the fact they'll face an Arizona spread attack that will be attacking those flats frequently during Saturday's bowl game.
Prognosis: Arizona should be able to get their yards in attacking the flats often against BYU's very conservative defensive coverage system. The return of Scott Johnson will in no doubt help if he's effective, as the Cougars will be able to employ their effective nickel coverage once again with Johnson playing a sort of safety position.
What I'll be Watching: I'll be watching Scott Johnson for sure to see how effective he is upon returning to the lineup after missing the final stretch of the year. I'll also be watching the Cougar pass rush, which has been lacking this season. Should the Cougars prove able to mount an effective pass rush, it will help out the overall pass defense significantly.
This should be a high-scoring game, as it's difficult to see either defense keeping either offense down for the duration of the game. It should be a shootout that won't be decided until the final minutes of the game. Both teams are hungry, with the Cougars wanting to end the year on a high note to build momentum into next season and Arizona playing in its first bowl game since 1998 and no doubt be raring to go come Saturday.
Final Score Prediction: BYU 38, Arizona 28