So far, fans of the Arizona Wildcats football team have not had a lot to cheer about this season. The Wildcats are currently sitting on a 2-5 record, including an 0-4 mark in Pac-12 conference play. This week, Arizona will look to turn things around when they host Stanford. The Cardinal have had their own struggles as of late, losing their last three conference games. Here are the storylines for Saturday’s matchup between Stanford and Arizona:
Arizona’s offense vs. Stanford’s defense
Arizona is hoping that the return of quarterback Brandon Dawkins this week will provide the offense with a spark. According to the Arizona Daily Star’s Michael Lev, Dawkins, who missed the Wildcats’ 48-14 loss to USC, should provide the offense with some athleticism, playmaking ability, and leadership that it has been lacking recently. When healthy, Dawkins, a southern California native, has played better than Arizona’s other starting quarterback, Anu Solomon. Still, head coach Rich Rodriguez has yet to officially say who will start between Dawkins and Solomon, though most expect Dawkins will get the nod.
Defense has always been a strength for Stanford under head coach David Shaw, and this year is no exception. As Ryan Kelapire of Arizona Desert Swarm points out, the Cardinal defense is only allowing 21 points per game this year. That is impressive considering that last year’s Pac-12 championship team, which lost several key members,allowed 22 points per game. Kelapire believes, and it would seem a no brainer, that the Wildcats are going to have to find a way to pass against Stanford with the injury to running back Nick Wilson.
Stanford’s offense vs. Arizona’s defense
The secret to keeping Stanford’s offense in check has been pretty straightforward: stop Christian McCaffrey. But, McCaffrey, who was one of the Heisman favorites at the beginning of the season, hasn’t been able to put up the numbers in his last three games that he was able to put up in Stanford’s first three games of the season. He also had to sit out Stanford’s game at Notre Dame with injuries. Stanford’s passing game has been a major problem with senior quarterback Ryan Burns struggling throughout the season. Earlier in the week, Shaw announced that junior Keller Chryst would start for the Cardinal at quarterback on Saturday. Chryst has seen limited action in several of Stanford’s games this season.
A major problem with the Arizona defense this season has been the lack of size on the defensive line. But, as Lev reports, the Stanford offensive line is not as big as some of the other offensive lines the Wildcats have faced this season. Still, Arizona’s defensive line coach Vince Amey tells Lev that he expects Stanford to be very physical with his undersized line. Wildcat fans will hope to see their front line can hold up against the Cardinal.