Before this week’s Stanford-Arizona game, we had a chance to ask Arizona Daily Wildcat football beat writer and assistant sports editor Alex Williams about the Wildcats and how he thinks Saturday’s game will shake out. Find more of Alex’s work by visiting the Daily Wildcats’s football page.
What is the mood of the team after last week’s disappointing loss to Oklahoma State?
While I don’t think it’s horrible, there’s no way Arizona’s coming into this game with much confidence. It’s one thing to lose to a top-10 team on the road. It’s another to come out looking completely unprepared, get down 21-0, and then start to stage a comeback before making mistake after mistake. It seemed like every time Arizona got any momentum against OSU, a huge mistake followed, and that can’t be good for morale. Couple that with the beating Arizona took at Stanford last year, and I’d think this is a pretty beaten-down team.
You’re Mike Stoops. What’s the last thing you say before the team heads onto the field?
It’s a new week, and here’s your chance as a defense to go out and play against the best quarterback in the country, and to play against another top-10 team on national television in what should be a pretty rabid environment. I’d also be sure to remind them about the spanking they took last year in Palo Alto.
Regardless of the final score, will Nick Foles or Andrew Luck play the better game?
If we’re just talking stats, I’d go with Foles. No matter how he looks during the game, he somehow ends up throwing for somewhere around 350 yards with a couple touchdowns. But if we’re talking about things like changing the play at the line, moving the chains with his legs and ultimately leading the team to a win, I’d go with Luck.
How much success do you expect the Arizona running game to have?
Very little. Keola Antolin’s the type of running back that can’t create things on his own, and needs tons of help from the O-line. He’ll occasionally pop off a 15-20 yarder behind a very inexperienced offensive line, but it’ll be plays for no gain or a yard or two for the rest of the game. A player to watch is true freshman back Ka’Deem Carey. He’s been Arizona’s most impressive runner and has the better stats, but he hasn’t seen anything except garbage time through the first two games.
What kind of turnout and home field advantage do you expect at Arizona Stadium?
This will be the loudest stadium that Stanford plays in during the 2011 season—at least for the first quarter or so—even though Arizona’s coming off of that disappointing loss at Oklahoma State. Arizona’s student section holds 10,000 students, and I’d imagine they’re ready for their chance to try to get into Andrew Luck’s head. Arizona’s also gotten a reputation for knocking off top-10 teams at home in the past eight years or so, and the crowd has been a big reason why.
How does the Arizona front seven look after the departures of Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore?
It’s pretty athletic, but undersized and very inexperienced. They did a good job getting a pass rush against Northern Arizona, but got manhandled against Oklahoma State. The ends—Mohammed Usman and C.J. Parrish—will be able to get a better jump off the snap at home, which should give them a little bit of an edge. Both guys are pure speed rushers though, and both pretty small at about 6-foot-2, 240 pounds. They haven’t done much against the run, and teams with a power-style run game, much like Stanford’s, have always had tons of success against the Wildcats.
Stanford’s offensive line has struggled in the opening two weeks of the season. Will Arizona be able to get to Andrew Luck in the backfield?
This one’s a little bit tricky. Arizona’s secondary hasn’t been good so far, but is it because of a lack of pass rush? If not, Luck won’t have any problem getting rid of the ball before he gets pressured. But if the secondary can hang on for a couple seconds, I think Arizona’s line will have a slight edge, if for no other reason than the crowd noise. The ends are pretty pure pass-rushers, and I think the half-step advantage they’ll be able to get at home will result in some hurries of Luck, which will probably come in spurts.
Which Wildcat will have to step up for Arizona to win?
I’m going to go with a unit here and say the offensive line. For the most part, Arizona knows what it has at each of the skill positions. But if the line can open up some holes for Antolin and can give Foles time to go through his reads, I think Arizona might be able to outscore Stanford. I just don’t see the Wildcat defense getting enough stops for this to be anything but a shootout if it’s a close game.
What’s your final prediction for the game?
After the way Arizona finished last season and the beating it took at Oklahoma State, I just can’t see this game being very close. Luck and Chris Owusu are too much for the D to handle, and the Wildcats have really struggled with stopping Stanford’s ground attack the last few years. While Arizona’s going to score on some big plays and will gain tons of yardage between the 20s, the lack of a running game is going to kill the Wildcats in the red zone.
Stanford 49, Arizona 24