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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Matchups to watch for

    Arizona running backs vs. BYU linebackers

    The Skinny: With all the hype surrounding quarterback Willie Tuitama, it will be crucial for new starter Chris Henry and backups Xavier Smith and Chris Jennings to take some of the heat off the passing game. There to stop them past the line of scrimmage will be the Cougars’ senior all-MWC performer Cameron Jensen, who has led the team in tackles the last two seasons.

    Advantage: BYU. Although the Cougars lack depth among their linebackers, Henry and Co. haven’t yet proved they can reliably move the ball against any team.

    BYU passing game vs. Arizona linebackers

    The Skinny: Cougars senior quarterback John Beck can beat teams with his arm and his feet and threw for nearly 30 touchdowns last season. He has incredible command of BYU’s offense and throws as many short routes as long ones. He likes to dump the ball underneath to running back Curtis Brown and tight ends Jonny Harline and Daniel Coats, which will test the Wildcats’ linebackers sideline to sideline.

    Advantage: BYU. While Arizona possesses a lot of talent and potential in starters Dane Krogstad, Spencer Larsen and Ronnie Palmer, the group has not seen much playing time together in games. It’s up in the air whether the chemistry and communication are where they need to be to keep track of all of Beck’s passing options.

    Arizona passing game vs. BYU secondary

    The Skinny: Even with only five career games under his belt, Tuitama has demonstrated an ability to throw down the field better than any Wildcat quarterback in years. He can make virtually every throw, and there to haul them in is a playmaking, if diminutive, corps of wide receivers, led by Mike Thomas (5-foot-8) and Syndric Steptoe (5-foot-9). If Arizona falls behind at any point, the pressure will be on Tuitama to complete passes.

    Advantage: Arizona. Although the Cougars bring back a pair of upperclassman starters in junior Dustin Gabriel and senior Justin Robinson, they had only one interception between them last season. BYU has not seemed to improve a pass defense that ranked 104th in the nation in 2005 and allowed 25 touchdowns and 269 yards per game.

    Prediction

    Although BYU has a potent offense, its defense is sure to give up its share of points, provided Tuitama can lead enough drives down the field. The biggest factor may be a raucous home crowd at Arizona Stadium, which might have been enough to lift the Wildcats to victory in their three-point loss at Utah in last year’s season opener.

    Arizona 27, BYU 24

    Game notes

    • Arizona leads the all-time series between these teams 10-8-1, although BYU won the last matchup, 34-14, in 1977
  • Arizona’s largest margin of victory in the series came at home in 1964 (39-6)
  • The average margin of victory in the series is 14.3
  • Only two games between these teams have been decided by three points or fewer (1967: BYU 17-14; 1966: BYU 16-14)
  • Arizona is 73-24-5 since 1899 in season openers
  • Arizona had won five straight games on opening day before falling to Utah 27-24 last season
  • Arizona has won 17 of its last 18 home openers (Ohio State, 2000)
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