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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

How each team will win

Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat

The Arizona Wildcats take on The Citadel Bulldogs Saturday, Sept. 11, 2010, at Arizona Stadium in Tucson Ariz. The Wildcats rolled the Bulldogs 52-6 to earn their second win of the season.
Mike Christy
Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat The Arizona Wildcats take on The Citadel Bulldogs Saturday, Sept. 11, 2010, at Arizona Stadium in Tucson Ariz. The Wildcats rolled the Bulldogs 52-6 to earn their second win of the season.

Arizona

Arizona football is on the cusp of national relevancy, and a victory over Iowa is the first step into the upper echelon of respect.

While the rankings, stats and analysts all favor Iowa, Arizona is finally poised to make the jump from a team on the outskirts to the national spotlight.

This is the biggest non-conference game played at Arizona Stadium in the last 20 years, and the ZonaZoo knows the implications.

The Hawkeyes will have to deal with a “”Red Out”” from the sold out crowd of almost 60,000, as well as a 7:30 p.m. start — 9:30 p.m. Iowa time.

But aside from the psychological factors, Arizona is prepared on the gridiron.

The Hawkeyes are big, strong and experienced, but the Wildcats are fast and electric, and have a more confident and improved Nick Foles under center.

Foles, who has an 83.3 completion percentage through two games, needs to find time to throw, as Iowa has arguably the best defensive line in the country.

But Arizona’s offensive line led by senior center and captain Colin Baxter has been a strong point for the past two seasons.

Behind that O-line the Wildcats have one of the best offensive attacks in the Pacific 10 Conference, most of which the Hawkeyes didn’t see when they faced off in 2009.

Juron Criner has developed into one of the top wideouts in the country and his combination of speed and power with Nic Grigsby — who has five touchdowns already — and Keola Antolin together could test projected top-5 draft pick Adrian Clayborn and the Iowa front four.

Foles and company need to spread the ball around and keep the pace up, which should be no problem for this offense.  

Defensively the Wildcats have exceeded all expectations, and have yet to allow a touchdown this season.

Iowa presents a powerful, grind-it-out offense with Adam Robinson — 265 yards and four touchdowns through two games — in the backfield. He offers a nice combination of power and speed, but Arizona has proved to be one of the fastest defenses in the Pac-10.

The defensive line of Ricky Elmore, Justin Washington, Lolomana Mikaele and Brooks Reed, coupled with linebackers Jake Fischer, Paul Vassallo and Derek Earls make up a solid front seven fit to stop the run.

They are untested, however, and they need to keep the pace of the game up rather than allow Ricky Stanzi and company to grind it out.

But as long as Arizona keys in on the run, and safeties Joe Perkins and Anthony Wilcox don’t fall asleep, Iowa isn’t going to torch the Wildcats’ defense.  

Not many analysts have Arizona in this one, but the stakes are high and the Wildcats are hungry for national respect.

ZonaZoo will be rocking, and Arizona has Iowa on upset alert.

– Mike Schmitz

 

Iowa

Prepare yourselves, Arizona fans — your team isn’t playing Toledo or The Citadel anymore.

Kirk Ferentz has possibly his best Iowa team in his 12 years as head coach. It’s a group that will dominate the Wildcats both offensively and defensively Saturday.

Arizona has looked strong defensively through their two previous games, but the squad has yet to go up against an offensive group of Iowa’s caliber.

Ricky Stanzi is back under center for the Hawkeyes and primed to limit the mistakes he made last season. The Iowa signal caller has been successful so far, tossing three touchdowns and zero interceptions.

Iowa has the ability to beat opponents, both through the air and on the ground. Wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos didn’t play against Arizona in 2009, but the Wildcats will know all about “”DJK”” after Saturday. He and fellow receiver Marvin McNutt have proven themselves as playmakers in the receiving corps, while Adam Robinson and Jewel Hampton provide major threats in the backfield.

Although Iowa has outscored its first two opponents 72-14, the key to a Hawkeye victory Saturday rests on the defensive side of the football.

Defense has been the Hawkeyes’ biggest strength during Kirk Ferentz’s tenure in Iowa City, and this year is no exception.

Led by defensive end Adrian Clayborn, the Iowa defense is one of the best in the nation, allowing only 144.5 passing yards and 71.5 rushing yards per game. While Clayborn is rated No. 5 on Mel Kiper’s Big Board, he certainly doesn’t dominate opposing offenses alone.

Iowa returns a veteran front four that accumulated a combined 52 tackles for loss last season, and safeties Tyler Sash and Brett Greenwood cover the gaps in the secondary as well as anyone in the country, shutting down even the most dynamic wide receivers.

With defensive coordinator Norm Parker unable to make the trip to Tucson due to health reasons, the Iowa players will have a little extra fire to give the Wildcats’ offense “”Six Seconds of Hell.””

Those who think Arizona will win Saturday night will point to the numerous offensive weapons, including Nick Foles, Juron Criner, and Nic Grigsby.

All the Wildcats have proven is that they can win games against horrible football teams.

Arizona has yet to face a BCS-conference opponent this season. The last time they did, the Wildcats lost 33-0 to Nebraska in the 2009 Holiday Bowl.

Saturday’s game won’t be that big of a blowout, but it’s going to take more than a “”Red Out”” at Arizona Stadium to scare the No. 9 Hawkeyes.

Final prediction:

Iowa 28, Arizona 14

 

– Mitch Smith

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