Arizona and Boise State reside in the Western part of the country but the two schools have never played each other. That changes when the two meet in the Fiesta Bowl on New Year's Eve, and in an effort to know a bit more about Arizona we reached out to AZ Desert Swarm to answer a few questions.
Q. The last time we saw Arizona they were getting blown out by Oregon. What was it that Oregon did, or Arizona didn't do, to have that game so lopsided.
A. To be honest, I think it was simply the fact that Oregon had the opportunity in front of them to not only put themselves in a position to play for a National Championship, but to make a statement the night before the rest of the teams played. Arizona's defense was actually holding its own pretty well through the first quarter and a half, but the offense struggled to get first downs, and eventually the defense just wore down purely on the time of possession discrepancy. I mean, Oregon had 23 points at halftime and Arizona had 25 yards. It was bad. But things like that happen when the majority of your offense is first-year guys.
Q. One of the games biggest matchups is running back Jay Ajayi vs. linebacker Scooby Wright. Just for those who might somehow not be aware of Wright, gives an overview of how good he is?
A. I put this list together of all the different individual accolades Scooby has received this postseason. You'll see a few National Defensive Player of the Years in there. So I guess the basic overview is he has been the best defensive player in the country this year. Scooby sits in the top-three nationally in total tackles, tackles for loss, and sacks. No other player in the nation is in the top-20 of all three of those categories, so the gap between him and the next guy is kind of staggering. I'm guessing you'll also hear a lot about his two-star rating during the game, since his Twitter handle is @TwoStarScoob. A lot's made of Arizona being the only major program to offer him, but that's also partially due to the fact that he committed almost immediately after that offer. Going back to how good he is though, he just has a knack for making important tackles and getting into the backfield.
Q. Rich Rodriguez has been to few big time bowl games, but Bryan Harsin has only done so as an assistant coach. How much of a difference do you see between the coaching staffs?
A. My limited knowledge about Boise State's coaching staff is that most of them actually went to Boise, so they've been around all the success that program has had. I would say that Harsin has been around enough of these bowl appearances as the offensive coordinator that he definitely knows about everything that surrounds Fiesta Bowl week. A fun story about RichRod and the Fiesta Bowl that most people might not know though. When West Virginia was in the 2008 edition, most of the staff that is now at Arizona actually coached in that game, but not RichRod. He had already taken the Michigan job, and watched that game from a hotel room in Ann Arbor while all his guys were on the sideline. And he's admitted since Arizona received this bid that he sees this game as kind of a redemption for that day seven years ago.
Q. Give us an overview on what is expected from this Arizona offensive attack?
A. Arizona runs to set up the pass. True freshman Nick Wilson will be the primary running back, and you might also see senior Terris Jones-Grigsby get some action as well. The offensive line is one of the most experienced in the country, and has paved the way for Wilson and Ka'Deem Carey to have record-setting seasons at Arizona the past three seasons. The Wildcats will be without center Steven Gurrola for the first half after being ejected from the Oregon game for punching a guy in the gut. Redshirt freshman quarterback Anu Solomon has struggled a bit down the stretch partially due to a foot sprain / ankle injury, but with almost a month off, he should be healthy and look like the guy we saw early in the season against teams like UNLV and Nevada. Cayleb Jones is the biggest threat in the receiving game, but you'll notice the Wildcats constantly rotating receivers in and out because they can essentially run eight-deep without dropping off in talent. And it's all very fast, as you would expect from a RichRod offense.
Q. What is your game prediction?
A. I think it's going to be close and exciting the whole way. I would say a last-minute stop by Arizona's defense seals a 34-30 victory for the Wildcats, and Nick Wilson earns Offensive Player of the Game, and Tra'Mayne Bondurant with Defensive Player of the Game.