Things aren't going to get easier for the Arizona Wildcats from here on out, with a night game at USC, back home for Utah, then up to Tempe for Arizona State. Sitting on a 5-4 record, this year has been an extreme disappointment. Heading into the season, it's fair to say most expected an 8-win season at the bare minimum, coming off a Pac-12 South Championship.
Sure, there are injuries all throughout the roster, and there is little to no talent on defense, but the concern should be focused on the offense. This year, the defense has been a complete liability, giving up an average of 41 points per game in Pac-12 games. The defense has never been good under Rich Rodriguez, but in prior years, they were at least able to create turnovers, and get timely stops. Neither is happening this year.
But it's the offense that is doing the defense no favors this season either. Three-and-outs and stalled drives constantly keep the defense on the field, leaving them gassed. But this is supposed to be a high-powered offense, an offense that is averaging 28 points per game in the Pac-12. As of now, this team has zero identity on offense.
Nick Wilson has been banged up more than ever this season, Trey Griffey and Tyrell Johnson were out extensively, but that still leaves you with Jared Baker, who has taken advantage of Wilson's absence, to go along with Cayleb Jones, Nate Phillips, Samajie Grant, David Richards, and Johnny Jackson. Aside from Cayman Bundage's frequent missed snaps, this should, on paper, be one of the best offensive lines in the conference. But neither Jerrard Randall or Anu Solomon are truly dependable quarterbacks, and it's a tough situation for Rich Rodriguez to manage both, but that's where his offensive prowess should take over.
You could say that Anu Solomon isn't fully healed from his concussion suffered back against UCLA, but you should trust the medical staff and their abilities. This isn't Solomon still dealing with the injury, this is just the regular Anu Solomon we've watched over the last two seasons.
He's struggled to maintain drives and lead the offense down the field consistently throughout his career. We saw it last year in the first half vs. California, Washington, and Boise State. as well as the entire UCLA game, which played similarly to Washington this past weekend. This year, we saw it happen again vs. Colorado, where Anu Solomon was finally pulled out for Jerrard Randall to step in. Against Washington, Arizona was shut out for the final 54 minutes, and allowed 49 unanswered points. The play calling certainly has to do with some of the struggles on offense, but not every play is going to win.
He led Arizona to a Pac-12 South title, and has found success in the past, but this year the offense has been at its worst under Rich Rodriguez. This isn't calling for Jerrard Randall to come in and start, because neither seem to be clear cut starters for various reasons, it just makes you wonder about this supposed "high-power" offense.
Because when you look at other high-powered offenses from across the nation -- Baylor, TCU, Clemson, Washington State, Oregon -- those teams hardly, if ever, miss a beat, and put up 35+ easily, week in and week out. But every now and then, Arizona just throws up a dud, where they get in a lull, and get absolutely nothing going for them.
Arizona is now 17-16 in conference play in the Rich Rodriguez era, and will only hold winning records vs. California (2-0), Utah (3-0), and Colorado (4-0), by the end of this season.
Arizona State, Stanford, Washington State, Washington, USC, UCLA, all hold the advantage over Arizona the past four years, with Oregon State and Oregon having their respective series even in the W-L column.
It's going to be almost near impossible for Arizona to match their 2012 and 2013 Pac-12 records this season, both led by two different quarterbacks in Matt Scott and B.J. Denker. And when you truly look back at both of their careers, B.J. Denker only kept Arizona out of one game in his career, at Arizona State, which is without a doubt the most crucial of them all, to be fair. Take that for what it's worth, but you can count the amount of games that Anu Solomon has failed to lead Arizona's offense on both hands.