Professor Pigskin: What to watch and learn from NAU
Can we really learn anything from tonight’s game?
Only if they struggle to win or actually lose. If the Wildcats win in impressive fashion it tells us nothing. That is what they are supposed to do. We’ve seen mediocre to bad Arizona teams thump lesser competition. Anyone remember Arizona’s 62-31 win over Southern Utah last year?
If Arizona struggles, regardless if they win or lose, then it means that their problems are deeper than schemes and strategy. It means they lack overall talent and are in for a long season. Anyone remember the Grambling game a few years ago?
What are you looking for in this game?
Frist and foremost I want to see how the defense adjusts. The level of competition is not quite what we saw two weeks ago, but the Lumberjacks do have some real veterans on offense. I need to see better coverage, especially from the safeties and linebackers. I also want to see a pass rush. The Cats have to pressure the quarterback this season if the defense is going to have any chance at even being mediocre.
On offense I want to see some balance. The Wildcats need to run the ball to be effective. They really need a 50-50 run-pass balance. A lot of that comes from Khalil Tate and what he does with the RPO and the pre-snap reads. Most of the run/pass calls are made by the QB not the coaches and Tate needs to understand that an effective run game will make him a better passer.
If Arizona loses to NAU is the season over?
Yes. Arizona needed to get four or five wins to start the season when the schedule is easier. They can’t start 0-2 and hope to scrape out 6 more wins. As it stands even beating NAU does not mean things will be better, but a loss is disastrous.
If this is not the game, when will we know more about this team?
The next four weeks are the season. If the Wildcats are a bowl team, and I think at best they are a fringe bowl team, then they really need to win three or four of these games. On paper Arizona is comparable to Texas Tech, UCLA and Colorado, and get two of the three at home. If Arizona is going to get to six or seven wins, then they must beat teams like those three as well as Oregon State and Arizona State.
The big question is can they beat these teams? If they play like they did against Hawaii the answer is no.
What do you want to see from the defense tonight?
I want to see them hold NAU to under 300 yard through three quarters. In a perfect world the Wildcats will be up big heading into the fourth quarter, so they could have a number of second and third teamers in the game at that point and the stats are sort of meaningless.
Do you really think Arizona can blow out NAU?
In their last two meetings Arizona beat NAU by a combined 139-37 and those were only 7-win Arizona teams. In their last four meetings against FCS teams Arizona has outscored them 232-88 and put 60+ on three of the four.
NAU looks to have a decent squad, so putting 60+ on them may be too much to hope for, but 40-50 may be realistic.
Prediction: Arizona 48, NAU 24