The 9th-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes come to Tucson on Saturday night to take on the 24th-ranked Arizona Wildcats. Both teams have a lot to prove, and an OOC victory would set either team up nicely to make a move in the polls.
This game is a rematch of last season's 27-17 Iowa victory, held at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. The Wildcats put up a respectable fight in hostile territory, but were unable to find an answer for Iowa's stout passing defense.
Arizona has a real opportunity to put themselves on the map nationally with a win on Saturday. Marquee victories are hard to come by, but beating the reigning Orange Bowl champions would be a huge boost for the program.
In order to have a chance against the Hawkeyes, coach Mike Stoops and the Wildcats must focus on several key points:
Force the Iowa offense to become one-sided, preferably by stopping the run.
Iowa has been consistent in both their rushing and passing attacks over the first two weeks of the college football season. The strong running of sophomore Adam Robinson has been one of the main reasons for their success. Arizona fans will remember Robinson from last season, when he ran for 101 yards and two touchdowns against the Wildcats.
Arizona was able to force Stanzi into a mediocre afternoon last September, where he completed only 20/32 passes while throwing an interception and zero touchdowns. Stanzi has matured since that game, but allowing both the run and the pass to be effective will spell doom for Arizona.
Dominate time of possession.
Further reflecting upon last season's loss, Arizona was only held to 22:04 of ball possession. Iowa, on the other hand, controlled the pigskin for 37:56. The Hawkeyes wore down the Wildcats defense by pounding the ball on the ground. Robinson and Bobby Wegher ran for a total of 147 yards on 35 carries, allowing Iowa to control the tempo and play signature Big Ten football.
This plays right into the main point: Arizona must effectively run the ball. Nic Grigsby picked up 75 yards on only 11 carries - Stoops must put the ball in Grigsby's hands and let the powerful Zona Zoo shift the momentum in a hostile environment.
Take the ball out of Matt Scott's hands.
Matt Scott is an incredible athlete. He can be utilized as a wildcat rushing option, and also has a good arm. But the fact of the matter is simple: Nick Foles is the quarterback of the Arizona Wildcats. This isn't the Philadelphia Eagles, and Scott isn't Michael Vick. By allowing the offense to gel with Foles under center, Arizona will be able to focus on moving the chains consistently.
Besides, Matt Scott was only 4/14 against Iowa last season, and Arizona was never able to get anything going in the air. Between Foles and Scott, UA only picked up 105 passing yards. Some of that can be contributed to the Iowa defense, which is excellent, but giving Foles the opportunity to show his mettle could lead to huge benefits for the passing game.
If coach Stoops can put a stop to Iowa's rushing game, control the ball for significant chunks of game time, and find a way to move the ball aerially, Arizona can pull off the big upset on Saturday night. If the Wildcats play anything like they did against Iowa in 2009, expect another mediocre season in the Old Pueblo.