Today, we are talking with the people at AZDesert Swarm, SBN's Arizona answer for CGB. They are like us, but with worse weather. They were helpful enough to answer our questions about this Arizona Wildcat team. Thanks to Jason Bartel and Kevin Zimmerman for their answers. GO BEARS!
1. How has the season gone to date? Has the team exceeded fans' expectations so far?
Kevin Zimmerman: I think the Wildcats have met some expectations, at least in terms of the win total, but people are cautious about being optimistic. The defensive efforts against UTSA and Nevada are worrying a lot of people, but on the offensive side of the ball, replacing Ka'Deem Carey and B.J. Denker has gone much better than expected.
Jason Bartel: 1. I would say most people think Arizona has looked underwhelming so far this season. Offensively, this team has probably exceeded expectations, primarily in the rushing game, but defensively there was a lot left to be desired through the non-conference season.
2. Why were the UTSA and Nevada games closer than many expected (Arizona failed to cover by wide margins in both games)?
Kevin Zimmerman: That defense. The run defense has been alright in two games save for giving up big plays to some mobile quarterbacks, but the pass defense is at the heart of the issues. Arizona can't generate a pass run without bringing pressure from linebackers and its spur and bandit safeties, which isn't great news matching up against the Golden Bears.
Jason Bartel: Those games were close because this defense has no pass rush. Also, in the UTSA game, Arizona failed to score touchdowns when reaching the redzone, which drives RichRod crazy. But there's also a little bit of people not realizing just how good Nevada and UTSA are. UTSA is made up of almost all seniors, and Nevada is the kind of team that this defense struggles with as they proved in the New Mexico Bowl two years ago and again this past weekend.
3. Arizona is averaging 250+ yards on the ground and 6+ YPC. What's been the key to their rushing success so far?
Kevin Zimmerman: A veteran offensive line and a reliable scheme. I think that gets overlooked. Freshman Nick Wilson looks really, really good and senior Terris Jones-Grigsby brought a unique look as a smaller, bowling-ball type of back in the season opener. But a lot of credit has to go to the line and how much success RichRod has with any quarterback using the zone read.
Jason Bartel: The offensive line and the new threat of a passing game. Arizona returned four starters from last year's line, and that's a line that paved the path for Ka'Deem the last two years. So the run blocking has always been there. And now with the legit threat of downfield passes, defenses can't put eight in the box anymore to try and stop it. Also, true freshman Nick Wilson is a pretty legit running back. A lot of people on the team are calling him "Mini Ka'Deem"
4. Anu Solomon has stepped in as a a redshirt freshman in impressive fashion, completing 60%+ of his passes with an 8:1 TD:INT ratio. In addition, he's coming off his best game of his young career so far. What can we expect to see out of the freshman QB?
Kevin Zimmerman: He's not going to force anything or look like a freshman. Sometimes his decisions aren't on point and other times he'll overthrow it, but he has a lot of ability. He has a big arm and puts a nice touch on deep balls, and he's also got the ability to pull the ball on the zone-read and keep defenses honest. When he makes mistakes, he responds well, which is the most un-freshman like thing about him.
Jason Bartel: He's actually a redshirt freshman, but more of the same probably. He's so level-headed, nothing phases him. He was the starting quarterback for four-straight Nevada HS State Championship teams. He just has great instincts and fits in this offense perfectly. He's not as mobile as most people thought, but he can escape the pocket when he needs to. And he's shown the ability to throw the deep ball when the opportunity presents itself.
5. Who is the Az player on offense that Cal fans should know about?
Kevin Zimmerman: Since Jason went with Cayleb Jones, I'll go with freshman running back Nick Wilson. The freshman looks a little bit like Ka'Deem Carey but has a little more breakaway speed to him. OK, that's not fair to compare him to Carey, but certainly Wilson is no slouch and making a lot of smart cuts and big plays.
Jason Bartel: Cayleb Jones. The guy's currently leading the team in receptions and receiving yards. Jones is a redshirt sophomore who transferred from Texas and sat out last year. His size (6-3, 215) is something that this team was missing last year, and it makes him the perfect compliment to Austin Hill. His athleticism and ability to get open is just scary.
6. Who is the Az player on defense that Cal fans should know about?
Kevin Zimmerman: Spur safety William Parks took over for Tra'Mayne Bondurant because of some disciplinary issues and hasn't given up his starting spot. He's very athletic and will be involved in the run defense up in the box on one play and then fall back into coverage on the next.
Jason Bartel: I'm going to go a different way with this one. Cal fans should know the name Jarvis McCall Jr., but it's because he'll be the corner who gets picked on by Sonny Dykes, just like the first three teams have done. McCall's a redshirt freshman, and has yet to show the ability to make a decent play or effectively cover good wide receivers in a game situation. But I completely expect Cal and Jared Goff to go right after McCall over and over again.
7. What does Az need to do to win this game?
Kevin Zimmerman: Find some way to get stops in the red zone. The Wildcats haven't been bad at this because the run defense hasn't been awful, but they can't be happy letting Cal get touchdowns. Jared Goff is going to pick up some big yards, but in what I think will be a close game, Arizona needs to force a few field goals to win.
Jason Bartel: Force turnovers. I just get a feeling this is going to be a shootout and the Arizona defense is going to need to prove it can make a big play when it needs to. The Wildcat offense has proven it can score when given the opportunity. But will the defense give them that opportunity?
8. What does Cal need to do to win this game?
Kevin Zimmerman: Get tricky. The Golden Bears can probably catch the Wildcats making some bad decisions with misdirections and screen plays. I think the offense will keep pace with Arizona, but they need a big scoring play or two to win.
Jason Bartel: Not give up the big play. The Wildcats already have three 85+ yard touchdowns this season, and have seven scoring drives that have been under two minutes. If they force Arizona to put together long drives, that'll give them a better chance of leaving Tuscon with a W.
9. How do you see this one going?
Kevin Zimmerman: Giving Arizona the benefit of the doubt at home. Just know that Arizona fans wouldn't be surprised by Cal pulling off the upset this week judging by how the Wildcats have played so far.
Jason Bartel: I see this as a high-scoring showdown with Arizona taking it 45-38 with another late stop by the Wildcat defense to seal it for the third week in a row.
10. Who do you want to punch in the face?
Kevin Zimmerman: The FIBA mascot. See here.
Official Mascot for FIBA world championship in Spain. pic.twitter.com/pKb4tmzWKE— Modupeola Oyewale (@ladupsy) January 31, 2014
Jason Bartel: Right now, probably Adrian Peterson. Punching Jeremy Roenick in the face also looks like fun