Here are three things to watch* in the Arizona Wildcats’ game vs. Colorado at Folsom Field in Boulder (Saturday, 5 p.m., Pac-12 Networks), plus a score prediction and some pertinent preview links:
(*-We’re going with a Tom Petty theme this week in honor of the late, great rocker.)
1. LEARNING TO FLY
Arizona will face a talented – but not fully formed – quarterback in Steven Montez. The redshirt sophomore has only eight career starts. But he already has tied the Colorado career record with two games of 400-plus yards in total offense. Don’t be fooled by Montez’s 6-foot-5, 225-pound frame and NFL arm either; he can and will run. Montez’s touchdown-to-interception ratio of 7-6 suggests he’s still figuring things out. Counterpart Brandon Dawkins is at a different stage of his development. Today will mark the redshirt junior’s 14th career start and 20th career appearance. There’s nothing Dawkins hasn’t seen. It’s part of the reason UA fans get so frustrated with Dawkins at times. If they had their way, Dawkins would be benched for sophomore Khalil Tate. With Tate healthy now, Rich Rodriguez has that option should Dawkins falter. But it’s important to remember that Tate is far from a finished product. He’s still only 18 years old, he has made nine career appearances and only four were in meaningful situations. It’s presumptuous to assume he’s the answer.
2. RUNNIN’ DOWN A DREAM
Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre has been waxing poetic about Arizona’s running game all week, so it’s safe to assume that will be the focal point for the CU defense. Rodriguez has had just as much praise for Colorado’s Phillip Lindsay, whom I profiled in this week’s storylines (see below). The team that succeeds in stifling the other’s running attack will have a very good chance of winning. That’s how every defensive coordinator should game-plan against Arizona until Dawkins proves he can beat good defenses with his arm on a consistent basis. I’d like to see Rodriguez make greater use of the two-back set he has deployed only sparingly this year – and figure out a way to get J.J. Taylor the ball other than by plunging him into the line. Colorado utilizes Lindsay in the run game (105-529-5) and pass game (13-111-1). Arizona’s vastly improved run defense is allowing 118.0 yards per game and 3.6 yards per carry – down from 194.2 and 4.7 last year.
3. THE WAITING
Arizona senior “Stud” DeAndre’ Miller finally is set to make his 2017 debut after missing the first four games because of a foot injury. Miller is not expected to start, but he should play. How much remains to be seen, but I’d like to see the Wildcats use Miller and starting Stud Kylan Wilborn at the same time in obvious passing situations. If Miller is right – a rarity during an injury-plagued career – he is one of the Wildcats’ best pass rushers. Wilborn (three tackles for losses, two forced fumbles) has proved to be one as well. It wouldn’t surprise me, given the extra time afforded by the bye week, if defensive coordinator Marcel Yates cooked up a look featuring three “edge” players at once. Colorado has allowed 14 sacks this season, although none against UCLA last week. The projected starting right side of guard Aaron Haigler and tackle Josh Kaiser has been responsible for six, according to Colorado’s crack sports-information staff.
FINAL SCORE: Colorado 27, Arizona 24