Stanford, Arizona looking to regain momentum
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) Stanford and Arizona both had designs on winning their respective divisions heading into the Pac-12 season.
A string of injuries in both programs have changed their courses a bit. The division titles are all but out of reach, so Saturday night's game in the desert is more about regaining momentum and moving toward bowl eligibility.
''We're two teams with talent and ability and we're both dealing with injuries,'' Stanford coach David Shaw said. ''When healthy, we're both one of the top teams in the league.''
The Cardinal were the defending Pac-12 champions and appeared to be a favorite to repeat after opening the season with three strong wins. A blowout loss to then-No. 10 Washington followed, triggering Stanford's first three-game losing streak in the Pac-12 since 2008, leaving the Cardinal needing two wins to become bowl eligible.
Stanford (4-3, 2-3 Pac-12) has not been able to rely heavily on Christian McCaffrey, thanks to an undisclosed injury suffered against Washington State on Oct. 8. Last year's Heisman Trophy runner-up did not play against Notre Dame and was held mostly in check in a loss to Colorado last week.
The Cardinal will not have cornerback Elijah Holder and fullback Daniel Marx against Arizona, with offensive linemen David Bright and Johnny Caspers both listed as questionable.
Arizona bounced back from an opening loss to BYU with a pair of victories, but has been decimated by injuries since then, leaving coach Rich Rodriguez's streak of bowl games in jeopardy.
The Wildcats (2-5, 0-4) have seen their top two quarterbacks go down with injury and were forced to move receiver Samajie Grant to running back due to injuries and off-the-field issues. Quarterbacks Anu Solomon and Brandon Dawkins were back at practice this week, but running back Nick Wilson will be out an extended period of time after suffering a new injury in Arizona's last game against Southern California.
''Eventually you feel this isn't going to happen every year and it's a freak-of-nature type of thing,'' Rodriguez said. ''It's kind of strange. It's never happened to us and then last year it was the middle linebacker and this year it's the quarterbacks and running backs. It's bad luck. It's just one of those things.''
A few more things to look for when the Wildcats host the Cardinal on Saturday night:
STANFORD QB: Stanford has been mired in an offensive slump, so Shaw made the decision to name junior Kelly Chryst as the starting quarterback over fifth-year senior Ryan Burns. Burns threw for 1,058 yards and five touchdowns with seven interceptions while going 4-3 as Stanford's starter. Chryst, the son of former 49ers offensive coordinator Geep Chryst, has appeared in 10 games over the past two years, throwing for 122 yards on 12-of-27 passing.
ARIZONA QB: Rodriguez will have a decision to make this week with neither Solomon nor Dawkins appearing on the team's injury report for the first time since the opening game of the season. Dawkins was the starter in both of Arizona's wins, but did not play against USC on Oct. 15 due to a concussion. Solomon, Arizona's starter to open the past three seasons, has not played since suffering a knee injury in practice after the opening loss to BYU. Rodriguez has not tipped his hand on who will start against Stanford.
WEAKNESS VS. WEAKNESS: Stanford has dropped into an offensive funk of epic proportions. Once one of the nation's best power-football teams, the Cardinal entered Saturday's game last in the FBS in total offense with 299.1 yards per game. Stanford has scored 10 touchdowns all season and is 127th of 128 FBS teams in scoring offense at 17 points per game. Good news for the Cardinal is that their weakness will be going up against Arizona's. The Wildcats are 114th in total defense, giving up an average of 474.6 yards, and allow 33 points per game, 102nd nationally. Something has to give.