This will definitely be the clash of two different styles. The Wildcats are trying to establish a new and winning identity under second year coach Jedd Fisch. He came to the Wildcats with 13 years of NFL coaching experience and eight in the college ranks. Brennan Carroll, OC/OL coach, left the Seattle Seahawks after six years as their run game coordinator and OL coach. Chuck Cecil, their DB coach has 16 years of NFL coaching experience, including stints as a Defensive Coordinator. DL coach, Ricky Hunley has 10 years of NFL coaching experience. My point is the AZ boosters must have written some big checks to put this much NFL coaching on the field for a losing college program.
This is a clear departure from the typical FBS rebuild. Offensive and Defensive Coordinators who have made names for themselves at top 10 programs or younger winning coaches at G5 schools are brought in to right the ship at P5 schools. After a 1-11 test drive season last year, Fisch and crew brought in 50 new players (21 portals and the rest freshman), to start the rebuild effort.
After an encouraging revenge road win over San Diego State to open the year they stumbled at home to SEC Mississippi State last weekend 39-17. It should have been worse. MSU missed two extra points (shanks) and gave up 10 points via TO’s (both were offensive miscues rather than great defense).
What do the Wildcats bring to the table?
Offensively the attack revolves around Jayden De Laura, the reigning freshman of the year for the Pac-12, who transferred in from Washington State. Against Mississippi State he looked like he was on crack cocaine. He was reckless and careless in his scrambling and throwing, He finished the game 23 for 45 and 220 yards WITH THREE INT’s! He’s dangerous because of his great ability to move and extend plays. He is as big of question mark as he is a great threat.
On defense, they gave up 40 of 50 on passing for 320 yards and MSU’s RB’s ran 19 times for 117 yards (6.2 YPC). I don’t think this defense is even close to 2013 Kansas State (26th in FBS) or 2016 Iowa (23rd). They are more in line with Iowa State; they finished last in defense in 2014 (125th). The Wildcat’s were 99th in total defense last year. I think our OL will dominate! If we can run for 215 yards (5 YPC) versus Kansas State and 239 yards (4.9 YPC) versus Iowa: we will move it on the ground against the Wildcats! It has a chance to look like Iowa State where we ran for 302 yards (6.9 YPC).
I am not ready to crown a team that has lost 23 of its last 24 ball games coming into the season as having arrived yet after an average win versus a reloading Mountain West Team and a good beat down by a non-power SEC team. Towson was supposed to have turned the corner last year with its 42 FBS transfers. How did that turn out? Nor do I give the edge to the aura of two high speed twitch receivers (Cowing & Singer) and a 6’5” true freshman, Tetairoa (but he is their highest ranked prospect ever). These WR’s had to overcome a running game that produced 40 yards rushing last week with 34 of those coming on one early TD run and a QB who ran officially twice for minus 25 yards with three INT’s. They couldn’t overcome this sputtering run game.
In summary, I believe the Wildcats have more question marks than does the Herd. Also I know power wins out over “wingy-dingy”. We have dispatched high octane offenses that have beaten FBS schools (E Washington, Sam Houston and Jacksonville State) with our “pedestrian” old school power run game and sterling defense. I am betting on our formula to do it again. I believe in their hearts Arizona feels they are better than the Bison. This is produced with no on field verification. They haven’t earned anything yet, but have placed themselves as the better team because they are FBS. So have our last six FBS victims. Go Bison!