The Arizona Wildcats begin their 2016 season on Saturday, and unlike each of the last five years, it will not begin in Tucson.
Arizona and BYU join the growing trend of early-season neutral site games with the Cactus Kickoff Classic in Glendale. So what do we make of this fad? And what will the Wildcats need to show us on Saturday? Let’s discuss!
Jason Bartel: Are you a fan of these early-season neutral site games?
Gabe Encinas: It depends. Overall, I feel like this is an okay neutral site game with two comparable programs. The only problem I have with neutral site games is when it’s like Alabama vs. Wisconsin in Texas, Boise State vs. Ole Miss in Georgia, etc.
This was technically supposed to be a road game for the Wildcats, but it still ends up being closer for Arizona fans. I’m really not that concerned that BYU has been outselling either, simply because it’s not a huge game that really entices the Tucson folk to drive up for the game, and a lot of Phoenix area fans would probably rather drive down for Washington, USC or Stanford anyways. Apparently BYU students are outselling Arizona students too, which is funny only because Arizona invades Las Vegas for Labor Day, meanwhile BYU kids will use the weekend for a road trip to Arizona.
Drake Horner: A neutral site game in Glendale isn’t the worst way to start the year. I’m a fan of them if it benefits both teams and with BYU having a big alumni base in Arizona and the game being played in Arizona, I feel like it benefits both sides.
Steve Apter: I'm a fan. It’s exciting to start the season with a little change of scenery. Cal - Hawaii in Australia was rather amazing; can you imagine getting passports for 75 college kids and arranging travel, equipment, etc.? The opportunity to showcase football internationally or the chance for stateside fans to see teams they normally wouldn’t is good for the game.
Alec Sills-Trausch: I like neutral site games overall. What I’m not a huge fan of is how early this game was played. Now I understand the necessity of it with the time change and all, but it seems weird there was a football game, on a Friday, an entire week before the regular season. However, it helped land the Pac-12 a TV deal so I guess that’s not so bad. (Sorry to the DirecTV people for still not being able to watch Pac-12 football)
Brandon Combs: I am a fan of them. Luckily for BYU they have a large fan base in the Phoenix area plus the game is in Arizona so it benefits both sides. Games like Florida vs. Georgia in Jacksonville on the other hand doesn't make much sense.
Ryan Kelapire: I don’t really like neutral site games in any sport, since I like the home crowd atmosphere, but in this case, I don’t mind it. I’d rather have Arizona play a good program away from home than host a team like Grambling State or Hawaii. It’s also cool because it gives Arizona fans in Phoenix a chance to see the Wildcats play locally (though it doesn’t appear as if they’re taking great advantage of it).
David Potts: I’m not a big fan of the neutral site generally speaking, but I like the idea of a game in Phoenix. It gives local alumni (read: me) an opportunity to see a game in-person without needing to trek to Tucson. Despite the slow ticket sales, many of the Arizona alums I know in Phoenix are going to be there on Saturday, and I hope they set up a game like this in Phoenix every few years.
JB: What’s the biggest question you want answered by this team on Saturday?
GE: How the defense attacks and gets pressure. That’s all we’ve heard this past spring and fall camp and the defense seems to have a new energy about it. I’m curious to see which safeties are rotated throughout and how Dane Cruikshank debuts after a redshirt year and strong offseason. Marcel Yates led a Boise State defense that was among the best in creating turnovers and Donte’ Williams had the first and second ranked passing defense in each of his last two seasons at San Jose State.
DH: Can the defense contain Taysom Hill? We really don’t know how the defense is gonna look and with the emphasis put on creating pressure and turnovers it’s going to be interesting to see how it plays out. Taysom is elusive and if he gets out of the pocket, it could cause some trouble.
SA: How will Cam Denson do on offense? I’m pulling for him to make some big plays.
AST: Pass rush. The defensive line is quite questionable going into this game and if the team is going to have any success this season, they are going to need to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. My second-tier question is how Anu Solomon (I’m assuming he starts) responds to the first real in-house competition he’s faced in his two years at Arizona. He’s always had some trouble with overthrowing the deep ball so I’m hoping he’s gotten that under control..
BC: Pressure, pressure, pressure. I believe the secondary can handle the receivers but I want to see how the d-line stacks up against big o-lines. Will the line be able to get pressure on the QB and/or disrupt plays in the backfield? The name of the game this fall has been aggressive, attacking defense. I believe they can and now I want to see it on the field.
RK: No matter who the quarterback is, I think the offense will be just fine. Therefore, the defensive side of the ball is where my questions are. And the one I think is of the most interest is how will Marcel Yates be able to manufacture a pass rush? The Wildcats don’t have a lot of pass rushing talent, but the expectation is pre-snap movement and changes in playcalling/schemes can overcome that to some degree. But will it actually happen? That remains to be seen.
DP: Can the defensive line hold up? Arizona’s defensive line has been the defensive unit that worried me the most in the Jeff Casteel era, and the switch to a 4-2-5 puts even more pressure on those guys up front. I don’t expect them to suddenly become the best unit on the field, but I’d like to see some potential on Saturday.