Zack Rosenblatt, who covers Arizona for the Arizona Daily Star, provides his insight into this matchup with CU:
3 Wildcats key to this game
1. Brandon Dawkins, QB: Mike MacIntyre compared Dawkins’ athleticism to Colin Kaepernick this week, and he certainly is dynamic running the football. The biggest issue for Dawkins has been passing, and it has cost Arizona in its two losses. Against Utah, Dawkins turned the ball over four times and Arizona only lost by six points. He could be the difference between winning and losing on Saturday.
2. Shun Brown, WR: Brown has emerged as Arizona’s most dynamic playmaker and already has two punt return touchdowns after the Wildcats had one of the worst return games in the nation last season. If he can break free for a big play or two, either on offense or returning, Arizona will be in good shape.
3. Tony Fields II, LB: It’s really Arizona’s linebacker corps in general, especially against a running back like Phillip Lindsay, but Fields is a freshman who’s played nearly every meaningful snap and flashed some ability so far. If he and Arizona’s other young linebackers, including freshman middle linebacker Colin Schooler, don’t tackle well and complete their assignments adequately, Lindsay could go have a big day.
Who they’re talking about
CU players the Wildcats have talked most about this week:
1. Phillip Lindsay, RB: Arizona hasn’t faced a running back at Lindsay’s talent level this season, though the Wildcats do have the fourth-best rushing defense in the conference so far. Lindsay seems apt to take advantage of Arizona’s youth at linebacker and lack of size on the interior.
2. Steven Montez, QB: UA coach Rich Rodriguez has raved this week about Montez’s improvement as a passer and his ability to run the football at his size. The Wildcats still don’t have much experience against dual threat quarterbacks so far, as Utah’s Tyler Huntley was injured early in the game against Arizona two weeks ago.
3. Isaiah Oliver, DB: Rodriguez called Oliver an NFL-caliber player and spoke about his ability almost unprompted earlier this week when he was asked about why Colorado’s defense has been able to maintain its production after losing talent (and coaching) from last year’s team. The biggest question is — why didn’t Rodriguez offer Oliver, a Phoenix native, a scholarship out of high school?
Key statistic for Arizona
Rushing: When senior running back Nick Wilson is healthy, and productive, the Wildcats tend to win. In four years, Arizona is 14-4 when Wilson rushes for at least 100 yards and/or a touchdown. The only problem — he’s had trouble staying healthy. Consider: Wilson has either missed or left early in 20 of Arizona’s last 24 games. If he can stay healthy, and productive, the Wildcats should be OK.
Arizona can win this game if …
Brandon Dawkins can avoid making too many mistakes and run Arizona’s offense better than he has so far this season. If he falters and is replaced by sophomore Khalil Tate, the same rule applies.