The questions entering the first-ever Cactus Kickoff Classic featuring the Arizona Wildcats and BYU Cougars are endless.
BYU has an almost entirely new coaching staff, while Arizona has a brand new defensive staff.
Both teams are set to debut schemes that have not been run at the schools in some time. BYU is transitioning to a 4-3 defense, while Arizona basically still has a 3-3-5 depth chart, although Marcel Yates is known for his 4-2-5 mentality.
Coaches on both sides have said it’s been difficult to prepare for this game, because there’s not a ton of film you can study on the opponent. So, Saturday night’s winner will likely come down to which coaching staff can adjust on the fly better than the other.
"You gotta have your scheme obviously, but then you have what we call an ‘answer sheet’," Rich Rodriguez explained on Tuesday. "On all three phases, you have to have an answer. So if they’re doing this, then this is your answers to it. And you have to have repped that enough that our guys can understand that, so that’s the challenge."
"When you know exactly or have a good idea of what they’re gonna do, that answer sheet doesn’t need to be as big," coach continued. "When it’s a game like this, particularly a first game, that answer sheet is a lot bigger, so you’re doing a lot more things in practice just in preparation."
BYU will be studying those adjustments Arizona makes right away.
"We’ll have some plays and formations that we want to see how they adjust to," Cougars offensive coordinator Ty Detmer said on the team’s Facebook page. "So as a staff, we’ll sit down and see how they’re playing different formations and how they’re playing them and adjusting to them and go from there."
"I like to have those plays scripted," Detmer continued. "We’ll have some things ready that we want to see what they do to and go from there. Most of the NFL teams I played with you’d have first fifteen, but a lot of times you come off that script. I usually go about the first eight to ten plays."
The one thing that Rodriguez knows about BYU is head coach Kalani Sitake’s past. Sitake was the defensive coordinator at Utah for six years and at Oregon State for a year before taking the BYU head coaching job this year.
"Very aggressive," coach Rodriguez explained of Sitake’s defenses. "They play hard, have a lot of movement, and they try to disguise their coverages. They’ll challenge you. They’ll get right in your face, and that’s his personality."
What’s interesting about BYU is that both Detmer and defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki will be on the field, while they have graduate assistants up in the booth. Arizona will have defensive coordinator Marcel Yates and both co-offensive coordinators (Rod Smith and Calvin Magee) up in the press box. So there are two completely different ideologies going on there.
So who will be able to adjust quicker...the coordinators relying on GAs to feed them info, or the coordinators up top looking at the big picture? The answer could lead to the winning side in this one.