The Rainbow Warriors head to Tuscon this week to face their third Power 5 opponent in four weeks, so we thought it was a good time to catch up with our friend David Potts @dpottzzz at the AZDesertSwarm.com
1. What is the status of Anu Solomon and what impact would his absence have on the offense? What are they doing offensively if he plays? How does that change if he is out?
I don't think Anu will see the field. He is technically "questionable," which, as Ryan Kelapire pointed out for us yesterday, is Rich Rod code for "not playing." With Anu out, I expect that Arizona will run the ball slightly more than they otherwise would - Rich Rod trusts Anu to throw the ball more than he trusts Dawkins. Still, the core concepts won't change, so expect to see Arizona try to spread the defense out and rely on Nick Wilson to run the ball and keep the offense going.
2. Grambling was able to get it done through the air on Arizona, but BYU brought a more balanced offense and put up some rushing numbers. Where is the strength of this defense?
I think that's still an open question. After last season, Arizona fired Jeff Casteel, who had been Rich Rodriguez's defensive coordinator at both West Virginia and Arizona. He was replaced by Marcel Yates, who brought with him a new defensive scheme (the 4-2-5). In the BYU game, the defense did a great job limiting the Cougars' opportunities, but didn't force any turnovers. In the Grambling State game, though, the Wildcat defense had no trouble forcing turnovers, but gave up a ton of yards through the air.
If pressed, I would say I am more confident in the defense's ability to stop the run than the pass. True, BYU was able to put up decent rushing numbers against the Wildcats, but the numbers Grambling State put up in the air were staggering. Worse, Arizona wasn't able to get much pressure, either, only managing two sacks against an FCS offensive line. On a relative basis, anyway, I trust the defense to stop the run more than I trust them to stop the pass, at least at this point in the season.
3. How would you evaluate the Rich Rodriguez era? Has it gone as expected? What would you consider a successful 2016 season?
Overall, the Rich Rodriguez era has been a success. Arizona won ten games and made it to a New Year's Six Bowl under his watch. That's pretty incredible by itself. Moreover, the Wildcats have (to date) made a bowl game every year Rich Rod has coached here. So far, then, his tenure has been a success.
This year, though, is going to be the black mark on his resume. It's not just that the team isn't very good - this year was always going to be a rebuilding year with recent recruiting woes and the defensive staff shake-up. And that's fine - Arizona isn't a football powerhouse, and we're going to have down years. What worries me, though, are some of the off-the-field issues this season. Orlando Bradford, who started the year as the co-starter at running back for the Wildcats, was just arrested this week on multiple counts of felony domestic violence. He was immediately dismissed from the team, obviously, but it's difficult to consider what a "successful" season would be with that issue looming.
From a straight-football perspective, 7-5 would be a success. It won't happen. 6-6 would be encouraging. That might happen. 5-7 would be slightly disappointing, and that's probably the most likely outcome. And if Arizona won four games or fewer, the reactionary faction of the Arizona fan base would start to make some noise about Rich Rod's job security.
4. Finally, what is your prediction for this game?
The spread in this game is 24 points, which is laughable - if Arizona couldn't beat Grambling State by that much, I doubt they'll be able to beat Hawaii that badly. Still, I expect Arizona will win. I'll say Arizona 35, Hawaii 24, with a late offensive surge by the Wildcats sealing the deal.