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Stanford expert previews the Arizona game and makes a prediction

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stanford-cardinal-arizona-wildcats-q&a-rule-of-tree-sb-nation-expert-shaw-costello-mills-adebo Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The second half of the Arizona Wildcats’ California road trip is on tap for Saturday when it heads to Palo Alto to face the Stanford Cardinal in a battle of Pac-12 teams trending downward.

Arizona (4-3, 2-2) has dropped two in a row following a four-game win streak, losing by a combined 51 points to Washington and USC, while Stanford (3-4, 2-3) is coming off an embarrassing home loss to UCLA.

To get a better idea of what the Cardinal are made of this season, we picked the brain of David Ta from SB Nation sister site Rule of Tree. Here are his descriptive answers to our vague queries.

Nobody could have thought Stanford would be below .500 at this point of the season, yet here we are. Is this entirely an injury issue or is something else going on?

“The real reason behind all of this is definitely injuries. We have six healthy offensive linemen and three of them are true freshmen. A contributing factor is that USC, UCF, Oregon and UW are all tough opponents and I’m not even sure a healthy Stanford would have fared significantly better. This was definitely going to be a down year since we don’t have as much talent as usual.”

Assuming all three quarterbacks are healthy enough to play, who should start against Arizona and why? And what does each bring to the table?

K.J. Costello has more starting experience on his side, something that Davis Mills lacks and was probably a reason why we lost against USC. K.J. has NFL-caliber size and arm strength but average mobility. He looked good last season but did make some pretty bad mistakes. Mills has mobility which is important to conceal weaknesses on the offensive line. He didn’t take a single sack against UW. He is calm under pressure whereas K.J. sometimes panics under pressure. Offensive coordinator Tavita Pritchard praised Jack West for his football IQ and leadership. However, he looked awful against UCLA despite the fact that UCLA has a bad defense. He held the ball too long and took seven sacks from a defense that averaged 1.5 sacks a game before facing Stanford. He should take some time to develop and should not start. I’d vouch for Davis Mills to start since he has the mobility to conceal the depleted offensive line’s weakness but (coach David) Shaw tends to favor the experienced quarterback when choosing who to start so if both are healthy, KJ is likely to start.”

How does this year’s ground game compare to ones of recent past?

“This ground game has been okay. Fifth-year running back Cameron Scarlett isn’t flashy like Christian McCaffrey or Bryce Love but he gets the job done as power running back. At times, especially the UW game, he reminds me of Tyler Gaffney who led Stanford to a Rose Bowl in 2013. Scarlett could be good and it’s possible that the offensive line is to blame as there are a lot of injuries.”

Arizona’s offense has been very mistake-prone and inefficient of late. Which Stanford defenders do the Wildcats need to worry about the most?

“The biggest star on defense is CB Paulson Adebo. He’s predicted to go top 20 (in the NFL Draft) when he declares. He has the length to disrupt passes and (has) astute anticipation. He had one pick and a dropped pick in the UCLA game. Fifth-year senior and captain OLB Casey Toohill has been Stanford’s most disruptive force in getting to the quarterback. Casey has the second-most tackles with 38 tackles and leads the team with four sacks.”

Prediction time. Does Arizona get back on track by winning on The Farm or does Stanford right the ship?

“At the time that I’m writing this both Costello and Mills are questionable. If Jack West doesn’t significantly improve, it’s going to be Arizona’s game to lose. Costello and Mills both give Stanford a chance to win and I would predict that Stanford would win (if either plays).”