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Daily Universe sports editor Nate Cunningham talks Arizona vs BYU

Headshot+provided+by+Nate+Cunningham.+Cunningham+is+the+Sports+Editor+for+the+Daily+Universe+and+covers+BYU+football.
Courtesy of Nate Cunningham

Headshot provided by Nate Cunningham. Cunningham is the Sports Editor for the Daily Universe and covers BYU football.

It’s the moment and date we’ve all been waiting for: the first weekend of college football.

There will be some cheers echoing around the country, but prepare to see teams with their hearts broken.

Saturday will be a day that Arizona and BYU will really discover what they’re capable of. The Wildcats will be tested more than usual, because the last time the Wildcats faced BYU was in the 2007 season opener.

That was the same year BYU went 11-2 and beat UCLA in the Las Vegas Bowl.

The Wildcats’ quarterback situation is still a mystery, with Anu Solomon and Brandon Dawkins sharing reps while head coach Rich Rodriguez refuses to announce a starter until the opening kickoff.

No one truly knows how Arizona’s defense will look in terms of schemes, but first-year defensive coordinator Marcel Yates said he would throw multiple defenses at BYU.

Regardless of Arizona’s concerning situation, the Cactus Kickoff Classic at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, should provide some home cooking for the Wildcats.

The neighbors sometimes think the grass is greener on the other side, and BYU is in Arizona’s backyard looking to steal one from the Wildcats.

Daily Universe sports editor Nate Cunningham is making the trip from Provo, Utah, and he shared his thoughts on what to expect from the Cougars moving forward.

Daily Wildcat: Why will BYU knock off Arizona?

Cunningham: BYU wins this game because the Cougars are the more talented team, which isn’t something that can often be said about BYU. A perfect storm of excellent recruiting, transfers filling needs and returning stars make the Cougars as dangerous as they’ve ever been. Defensively, they’re as good as they’ve been in years, and the switch to a 4-3 scheme will only help emphasize the talent they have. Linebacker Fred Warner and safety Kai Nacua are impact players who will make their presence known on Saturday. Offensively, the team welcomes back two of the most explosive players to ever come through Provo, in Taysom Hill and Jamaal Williams. The Cougars also have a massive offensive line—the average weight is 307.7 pounds—and should be able to impose their will on the Wildcats.

Who will be a breakout player against Arizona that no one knows about?

Cornerback Troy Warner has too much talent not to be a breakout star for the Cougars. The former Oregon commit came to Provo to play with his brother, Fred, and ‘The Warner Bros.’ will wreak havoc on opposing offenses all season long. He’s just a true freshman, so he’s bound to show his age at some point, but he’s immensely talented and extremely athletic. I expect big things from Warner starting in Week 1.

Who are newcomers that will shine not only Saturday, but for the rest of the season?

Everyone knows about the return of Taysom Hill and Jamaal Williams. But two lesser-known offensive cogs may prove to be just as important for the Cougars in 2016: Andrew Eide and Keyan Norman. Eide and Norman are both transfers from Southern Utah and both were All-Big Sky Honorable Mentions a season ago. Now, they’ll slide into BYU’s left tackle and left guard spots. They’re both massive players—Eide is 6-foot-5 and 301 pounds and Norman is 6-foot-3 and 305 pounds—who should anchor an offensive line that struggled at times last season. Sure, everyone loves the ball carriers, but they can’t get going if the line isn’t moving bodies. Eide and Norman shouldn’t have a problem doing that.

Cunningham is confident in what BYU is bringing to the game Saturday, and although there are several questions remaining concerning the Wildcats, one thing is for sure: After four quarters of play, things will be a lot clearer for UA fans.


Follow Justin Spears on Twitter.


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