Today's matchup between the Arizona Wildcats and Oregon State Beavers may not be heralded as a very important matchup, but all things aside, it may just be the biggest and most crucial game UA plays all season.
At 1-4 and 0-3 in conference play, the season is not over for Arizona, but it probably could be with a loss in Corvallis. A win, however, would give the 'Cats a much needed momentum boost heading into their off-week as they prepare for a primetime showdown with UCLA.
Win today and the next two months seem like an opportunity to salvage a season and build for 2012. Lose, and, well, Mike Stoops may be out of a job. Here are a few keys to the game:
Get Off To A Strong Start:
In their last four games against Oklahoma State, Oregon, Stanford and UCLA, Arizona has been outscored 69-6. That's not a typo, folks. When the offense is continually having to play from behind and the defense gets abused early, it's tough to win any football game, let alone one against four of the nation's better teams.
This is a trend that needs to chance today. Oregon State is not a very good team and Arizona should be able to exploit their struggling defensive unit. Try and put together a few big plays early in the first quarter and look to get a big lead on the road.
Is This Kadeem Carey's Breakout Game:
For freshman Kadeem Carey, the running back has seen his workload increase with every week that passes. He seldom played against NAU, saw a little more time in a hostile road environment in Stillwater, saw an increased role against Stanford, and then played more than half of the game against Oregon and USC.
Is this his breakout game? Mike Stoops hinted at giving the ball to Carey even more this week and incorporating him into the passing game after hauling in a touchdown pass last weekend. Will he continue his ascension towards the starting position this week? We'll find out soon.
The Secondary Must Improve:
As I write this, Matt Barkley is probably throwing a touchdown pass against the UA secondary. The game ended nearly 150 hours ago.
All joking aside, Arizona's cornerbacks and safeties have to do a better job of containing opposing teams and their passing attack. Adam Hall will play on Saturday, which will be a big boost to the unit, but everyone needs to step their play up.
Arizona has steadily improved the last three weeks and Oregon State is the easiest opponent they've played since the first week of the season. The Beavers will be hungry for their first win of the season, but Nick Foles and the UA offense proves to be too much in a 38-21 victory.