Vanquish the Foe: Arizona heads into 2016 with Rich Rodriguez at the helm for his 5th season. He's been able to lead the Wildcats to winning seasons in his first four years (including a 10-4 record in 2014) but they haven't been able to crack into the top tier of the Pac-12. Are Arizona fans still sold on Rich Rod or do they expect more?
David Pots of AZ Desert Storm: A little bit of column A, a little bit of column B. As a preliminary matter, I think Arizona fans recognize that the options beyond Rich Rod probably aren’t very good. If Arizona moved on from Rich Rod – or, frankly, if Rich Rod moved on from Arizona – the replacement options would be few and far between. Second, though Arizona hasn’t been able to stay at the top of the conference consistently, the Fiesta Bowl appearance in 2014 was huge for the program and the fanbase. I think Arizona fans hope Rich Rod can do better, and maybe he can, but having a shot at the Pac-12 South title every three or four years is probably a fair result.
Vanquish the Foe: It appears that Anu Solomon and Brandon Dawkins are in a tight race for the starting quarterback spot. What does each quarterback bring to the table and who do you think the starter will be on Saturday?
David Pots: I think it will be Anu. Dawkins is talented and has impressed in the offseason, but Anu has been at the helm of the offense the past two seasons, and I can’t imagine Rich Rod would actually push him aside. Anu is more of a creator – he’s not Manziel, but he has some of the same tendencies – while Dawkins is more of a traditional dual threat quarterback. If I were a BYU fan, I’d hope to see Dawkins on Saturday.
Vanquish the Foe: Marcel Yates was hired away from Boise State to be the defensive coordinator and hopefully provide similar results that he was able to produce for the Broncos. What is his defensive philosophy and who will be his key playmakers on the field?
David Pots: Yates runs a 4-2-5, which is a significant shift for Rich Rodriguez. For years, Rich Rod has run the 3-3-5 – at West Virginia and Arizona, under Jeff Casteel, and at Michigan, under Greg Robinson or whatever other random coordinator Michigan paid for – and this represents the first time he has made any sort of shift from that defense. Schematically, I don’t know if it will pay immediate dividends, but the recruiting difference is seismic.
From BYU’s perspective, I would worry about Paul Magloire. Magloire played safety and linebacker last season, depending on what the situation called for, and laid the boom on opposing skill position players. He’ll only improve as a senior, and, if I were Taysom Hill, I’d try to lead my receivers away from Magloire.
Vanquish the Foe: Reports state that BYU could possibly outsell Arizona in regards to game tickets. How do AZ fans feel about the possibility of the crowd favoring BYU?
David Pots: I’ll believe it when I see it. I was at the Fiesta Bowl in 2014, which supposedly had a huge swath of Boise State fans, but the atmosphere at the stadium was relatively even. I expect to see something similar this Saturday – BYU fans have likely sold more game tickets through the school, but, when it’s all said and done, I expect to see more Arizona fans there on Saturday (though not by much).
Vanquish the Foe: The Rich Rod offense is incredibly fact-passed and relies on multiple players to keep the ball moving. Outside the quarterback position, which players on offense will likely have the biggest impact?
David Pots: Nick Wilson and Orlando Bradford are going to cause problems for BYU. Rich Rod running backs have a history of gashing opposing defenses (see, e.g., Steve Slaton and Ka’Deem Carey), and this year is no different. Wilson is one of the best running backs in the Pac-12 when healthy, and Bradford impressed when he was given carries late last season. The running backs are the skill position players I expect to be the most productive for Arizona this Saturday.
Vanquish the Foe: Does Jimmer Fredette still own the single-game scoring record for an individual player at the McKale Center?
David Pots: I don’t like this line of questioning anymore.
Vanquish the Foe: How do you see the game playing out on Saturday?
David Pots: Honestly, I expect BYU to win. I think BYU was better than Arizona last year, I think BYU returns more production, and I don’t see why Arizona would ever be favored to win this game. Arizona will put points on the board, but the defense will falter. I think BYU wins with the final score something like 42-35.