After an extended bye week, the Arizona Wildcats are back in action with a nice little road trip up to the Rockies.
In addition to taking in the fall colors, they’ll take on the Colorado Buffaloes, who have no bye week for a while, and are coming off a last possession loss to UCLA last week.
Both teams have two losses this year, so let’s dive into the three keys for Arizona avoiding that third L of 2017.
1. Master Taylor
Here’s the thing about what gave Arizona huge success against Colorado in the early RichRod years: a multi-headed rushing attack.
B.J. Denker and Ka’Deem Carey absolutely tore up the Buffs two straight years, and this year’s Arizona backfield should be able to do the same if they’re put in that position.
J.J. Taylor is someone who probably hasn’t gotten enough touches this year (48 rushes in four games), and RichRod said this week that he’s going to get Taylor “as many touches as we can”. Colorado is the team to do it against.
Use the change of pace running backs as effectively as possible, and all of the sudden Arizona improving to 3-2 seems like much more of a reality.
2. Phillip’s Plumbing
Colorado running back Phillip Lindsay is averaging just over five yards per rush this year, so Arizona’s (possibly overachieving) front six will need to clog up the line from start to finish to keep the Wildcats in it.
DeAndre’ Miller coming back should only help keep those guys fresh, and coming off a 15-day layoff, I’d expect the Wildcats to be extremely quick up front and possibly take Lindsay out of Colorado’s gameplan.
3. WAKA Kickball
On the surface, it seems like Arizona’s special teams have been much better this year. But then you go through the S&P+ rankings, and the Wildcats are still ranked 100th out of 130 teams.
You certainly can’t pin that on the return game, which has already yielded two punt return touchdowns. This team is 4-of-7 on field goal attempts this year, and is 2-for-4 on attempts from outside of 32 yards. There has also been two field goals blocked.
This was the year that kicking wasn’t supposed to be an issue, but for a team that’s been competitive in every game, the kicking game is becoming a big problem. In Colorado, I’d expect Lucas Havrisik to have touchbacks on every kickoff, but will him or Josh Pollack be able to come up with crucial three pointers in what’s likely to be a close game?
Could be the difference between 3-2 and 2-3.