Third time’s the charm?
That’s what everyone associated with the Arizona Wildcats is hoping for this week’s football game. Sometimes people make a bad first impression. And an even poorer second impression. But then when you think extremely poorly of that person, maybe they actually give you a glimmer of hope for that third impression.
This is Arizona’s chance to do exactly that I guess.
So how do you make a slightly good third impression? By following these three keys to a win over the Southern Utah Thunderbirds obviously:
Khalil Tate’s blind side will be protected by two guys that haven’t been on that side of the line this year. Layth Friekh returns from his bizarre two-game “suspension” and will slide back into his familiar slot at left tackle. This will allow Cody Creason to move from right tackle to left guard, and true freshman Donovan Laie will have some pressure taken off of him by moving over to right tackle.
The offensive line has been this team’s biggest weakness, so all eyes will be on that group now that it’s getting back Friekh and shifting other guys around. Also, if Arizona isn’t able to generate a push up front when running the ball against this team it’s fair to wonder if they ever will.
SUU has just three sacks in two games (looks good compared to Arizona’s zero though) and no one on their defensive line has more than 4.5 tackles, so maybe the Wildcats will actually look good up front this week.
2. Carry Out
To continue with the same thread, this is Arizona’s chance to actually establish the running game. Tate has yet to prove that he can be a consistent passer — especially downfield — but being able to show the threat of a good running game could certainly open up some opportunities downfield for him.
It will be interesting to see how the running backs are used as well. J.J. Taylor is still someone that is most effective on the edge, but has not been used that way. Darrius Smith is someone that is most effective in Houston, so will he break the rotation in Tucson after last week’s performance?
I still believe that if this team can get the run game going it could still be dangerous in the Pac-12. But there’s a lot of pieces that will have to improve to make that happen.
3. The Hard Stuff
Arizona’s defense over the past...decade?....has made a lot of people turn to the hard stuff, especially when you’re playing games that start at 8 PM local.
But this key has a different meaning this week.
It’s time for the Wildcats’ defense to start handing out the hard stuff.
Especially up front.
The defensive line has been nearly as atrocious as the offensive line in the first two games, but now they get an FCS offensive line to work some stuff out against.
Southern Utah averages 328 passing yards per game this year and Chris Helbig is 59-of-86 with four touchdowns. So there will need to be some pressure on the passer to potentially force some bad throws.
I expect Arizona to look like a decent football team against SUU. But if they crush them and show marked improvement on both lines? Then maybe there’s a little more belief among the Wildcat faithful moving into conference play.