Scouting the Opposition

… Previews for Colorado State, Texas State, Northern Colorado and Washington can be found here … UCLA preview can be found here

Game Six – Arizona – October 7th

… November 12, 2016 – No. 16 Colorado 49, Arizona 24 … Colorado ran its record to 8-2 with a harder-than-it-looked 49-24 victory on the road against Arizona. The Buffs were out-gained by the Wildcats, 412 yards to 388, but costly penalties (13 for 138 yards) and three missed field goals kept the Wildcats from making it a game.

The Colorado offense did produce a 100-yard rusher (Phillip Lindsay, 25 carries for 119 yards and three touchdowns), and a 100-yard receiver (Shay Fields, six catches for 108 yards and two touchdowns), but the Buff offense seemed out of sync for much of the evening. Sefo Liufau had his first three-touchdown pass since the Michigan game, finishing with 19-of-27 passing for 213 yards.

The Colorado defense struggled at times as well. The Buffs came into the game surrendering only 117.6 yards per game rushing (17th in the nation), but gave up 186 yards rushing to the Wildcats in the first half alone (and 262 yards for the game). The 412 total yards surrendered were over 100 yards over the 296.9 yards per game the Buffs had posted in the first nine games of the season.

The victory gave the Buffs an 8-2 overall record, 6-1 in Pac-12 play. The eight wins represented the highest total since 2004, with the team’s first four game winning streak the longest since 2002.

… The 2016 CU/Arizona game story, “Time to Get a Little Greedy“, can be found here

2016 Arizona results – 3-9 (1-8 in Pac-12 play)

– Returning starters, Offense: 6 … Returning starters, Defense: 7

– 2016 National Rankings (Offense)

— Scoring – 100th … 24.8 points per game  (Colorado – 51st … 31.1 points per game)

— Rushing – 19th … 235.0 yards per game  (Colorado – 56th … 182.6 yards per game)

— Passing – 108th … 178.1 yards per game  (Colorado – 47th … 254.5 yards per game)

— Total – 67th … 413.1 yards per game  (Colorado – 47th … 437.1 yards per game)

– 2016 National Rankings (Defense)

— Scoring – 118th … 38.3 points per game  (Colorado – 20th … 21.7 points per game)

— Rushing – 83rd … 194.2 yards per game  (Colorado – 44th … 148.9 yards per game)

— Passing – 117th … 275.2 yards per game  (Colorado – 20th … 193.6 yards per game)

— Total – 115th … 469.4 yards per game  (Colorado – 19th … 342.5 yards per game)

How the Buffs fit into the Wildcats’ 2017 schedule

Arizona opens it season at home against Northern Arizona from the Big Sky Conference, before facing two schools from the state of Texas to round out the non-conference schedule. The Wildcats take on Houston at home before traveling to El Paso to face UTEP. The Cougars were 9-4 last season, but lost their coach and many of their star players, while the Miners went 4-9 in 2016.

If Arizona can open with a 3-0 start, the Wildcats will have considerable momentum heading into the Pac-12 opener at home against Utah. It’s not inconceivable that the Wildcats could be 4-0 when they come to Boulder … but a 2-2 record is also a distinct possibility.

Regardless, Arizona will have the advantage of a bye week before facing Colorado. While the Buffs are in Pasadena facing the UCLA Bruins on September 30th, the Wildcats will be watching their next two opponents (Arizona plays UCLA at home on October 14th) from the comfort of their own homes.

Street and Smith’s has Arizona as the No. 6 team in the Pac-12 South.

What coaches and marketers have called Arizona’s “Hard Edge” melted into a buttery, soft mess last season. Already thin on talent entering the season, the Wildcats were shaken down with injuries and a player death to the point where they ranked among the worst four teams in every major Pac-12 defensive category. They put little pressure on anything collecting just 22 sacks, and coming up with only 14 turnovers.

… The Wildcats have considerable turnover in coaching staff and players alike, and there are few projected impact newcomers. That means they’ll be hoping running backs Nick Wilson and J.J. Taylor can re-emerge after season-ending injuries in 2016, that quarterback Brandon Dawkins can develop better passing skills to along with his considerable rushing ability – and that they can get the defense to actually work.

Lindy’s has Arizona as the No. 5 team in the Pac-12 South (10th overall in the Pac-12), the No. 64 team in the nation

Primary Strengths … With running quarterbacks and impressive tailbacks, Arizona will have a diverse ground game out of a zone-read attack. Running back J.J. Taylor could be special. Wide receiver Shun Brown (29 catches, 521 yards, three touchdowns last season) had an impressive spring. The offensive line has some age to it. Safety Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles is long and rangy, and will be a defensive leader.

Potential Problems … Arizona was 86th nationally in sacks last season – a total of 22 – and there appears to be little immediate help from the recruiting class. Beyond Brown, the Wildcats lack proven playmakers in the receiving corps who can help the quarterback improve their completion percentage.

Overview … Arizona won the Pac-12 South in 2014 in Rodriguez’s third season, but he didn’t set the foundation. Too many misses on the recruiting trail led to a rapid descent, including just four conference wins in the past two seasons. Injuries played a part, too. With a healthy backfield – which he rarely had last season – RichRod will find a way to score points and maybe creep back into the postseason in a perilous year for his job security.

Athlon has Arizona as the No. 6 team in the Pac-12 South, the No. 66 team in the nation (CU is 3rd in the Pac-12 South; No. 34 overall) … Projected record: 5-7, 2-7

Final Analysis … Arizona allowed 44.8 points per game in its eight Pac-12 losses. Improving the defense is the top priority. Rich Rodriguez hired two new defensive coaches, but the defensive line remains under-sized, and the linebacking group is freshman-laden. Almost as worrisome, Arizona averaged only 22.6 points in Pac-12 games.

Rodriguez’s contract buyout would be $5.1 million if new athletic director Dave Heeke made a change. This roster is not built to shine in 2017, but, if all goes well, 2018 could be promising. Sweeping the three non-conference games against NAU, Houston and UTEP seems imperative for Arizona to have a winning season.


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