The Northern Arizona Lumberjacks come into town in a game I have dubbed: "The Arizona Board of Regents Made Us Do It" Bowl. NAU competes in the FCS (the old I-AA), in the Big Sky Conference.
The Lumberjacks come into the season looking to build off of a 6-5 finish in 2008. NAU returns 14 starters (7 offense, 7 defense) from the 2008 squad.
When the Wildcats have the ball:
The Lumberjacks return senior Big Sky All-Conference LB Cody Dowd, and Big Sky honorable mention DE Michael Battisti. Unfortunately for the 'Jacks, Dowd is still out due to off-season shoulder surgery, and Battisti has not logged much time during camp due to injury concerns of his own. Battisti is expected to make it back for the Arizona game, however. Battisti is undersized at defensive end at 235 lbs. (at least for Pac-10 standards). He should have significant trouble out-muscling left tackle Mike Diaz (320 lbs.), or right tackle Adam Grant (325 lbs.). Arizona's offensive line should be prepared for a speed-rush out of Battisti, as it seems extremely unlikely he will be able to maintain any pressure with a bull-rush attack. It is unlikely that NAU has played a quarterback as athletic as Matt Scott, so look for him to pick up some big gains on designed QB runs, and scrambles.
Both of NAU's starting cornerbacks from a year ago return, however both are listed as backups this season. Matt Scott's success will depend largely on picking apart a sure-to-be slower, less athletic NAU secondary. Arizona's receivers should be faster and stronger than their NAU counterparts. Look for a big day from the Arizona wideouts.
When the Lumberjacks have the ball:
NAU will come into Arizona Stadium Saturday night with a new quarterback, and a running back who appeared in only six games last year due to injury. The 'Jacks, do however, return their three most productive wide receivers from a year ago.
Arizona will look to put pressure on first year starting quarterback, Michael Herrick. Defensive ends Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore should live in the Lumberjacks backfield. This will also be another good "break-in" game for the Arizona linebacking corps, before they travel to Iowa City to face the Hawkeyes next week. Any game experience, is good game experience for the green linebacking unit.
NAU faces an uphill battle this weekend against the bigger, faster Wildcats. Arizona still has some kinks to work out, but look for the Cats to win big.