The Arizona Wildcats host the Stanford Cardinal Saturday night in Tucson at 8:00 P.M. local time. Arizona is coming off its bye week, finally getting a much-needed opportunity to get some key players at key positions relatively healthy. With Christian McCaffrey and company coming to town, this is another chance for Arizona to knock off a big name opponent, despite Stanford’s struggles this year.
After being narrowly defeated at home by Washington in September (in OT) and then getting dominated by USC in its last game, Arizona is anxious to get back on the field and get another win after suffering four consecutive defeats. Against a team, in Stanford, who has lost three out of four, this is a good opportunity for one of these two teams to get back on the right track. Here is a look at what to expect Saturday night, in what could very well be the latest edition of #Pac12AfterDark.
Stanford has struggled mightily offensively in recent weeks and hasn’t scored more than 17 points in a game in a month. Well, meet Arizona’s defense. In Pac-12 play, Arizona hasn’t given up fewer than 35 points in a game. Call it “when a stoppable object meets a moveable object”. Something will likely have to give. Stanford has had offensive line problems as well as quarterback problems. Last week against Colorado, backup QB Keller Chryst got playing time, but every play was a designed run. Incumbent starter Ryan Burns has had significant issues all year and is yet to find his rhythm in the passing game. Whether Coach David Shaw allows Chryst to get more playing time and even some passing attempts in this week remains to be seen, but looks more and more likely. For Arizona, after 17-year-old Khalil Tate had such a rough go of it against USC, Arizona is hoping Brandon Dawkins is back to shoulder the load offensively. Dawkins is a true dual-threat quarterback and at this stage, is a much better passer than Tate.
McCaffrey being back presents its own set of problems for the Arizona defense. The only potential positive for the Wildcats defensively is that they can likely afford to focus more on McCaffrey without risking too much in the passing game, given Stanford’s struggles through the air. Arizona, with Nick Wilson unable to make it through a game without missing time due to an injury and most of their other scholarship running backs injured, is looked everywhere for help. This past week, Arizona even tried out reserve tight end Matt Morin at running back (Arizona’s injury issues have been so rough that Morin played quarterback in the 4th quarter against USC). Whoever is healthy will get the ball against an always tough Stanford defense.
All in all, Arizona definitely has a good shot at an upset against this Stanford team that lacks offensive explosivity. That will likely depend on Arizona’s ability to contain Christian McCaffrey and Bryce Love out of the Stanford backfield. With this Wildcat defense, “contain” is used extremely loosely as a “bend but don’t break” metaphor. Think of it like a bendy straw; It will likely bend a whole lot, but hopefully for Arizona, it never breaks. With Dawkins expected to return, Arizona should be able to score enough points to make this one very interesting.