Arizona vs Utah - November 7, 2020

Apparently Arizona has a big returning QB who broke all the state high school records in Texas. I don’t recall watching him play last year. Most people pick Arizona to finish last in our division, I wonder what their fans think of their chances? Anyone have a link to their free fan message board?

We beat them 35-0 last year before they scored a garbage time TD. I think we should win this game by a comfortable margin but the unknowns in the defensive secondary concern me against a QB who can probably chuck it downfield.

Grant Gunnel is the returning QB who is actually pretty good, apparently put in a lot of work in the off season.

In the air game the OL plays as big a role in determining success as the QB & receivers. How well our DL plays will be a huge indicator of how successful our new DBs will be… or at least as successful as they think they’ll be.

(I can only remember one or two times when we got burned by teams going max-protect on the OL and beating us deep with regularity. Once was QB Sean Mannion of Oregon State who was dropping dimes to WR Brandin Cooks. Both those guys went to the NFL. It was very weird to watch them beat double coverage downfield over & over.)

A closer than comfortable win on Nov 7 - with a lot of lessons learned by our DBs & DL - would be fine. There’s no substitute for game snaps, and then the all the film work and practice snaps will start to come together. A similar offensive look the next week at UCLA, and then a serious test up here vs USC, who always has an NFL caliber QB and NFL receivers.

Are you expecting a significant drop in our defense’s ability to pressure the QB with Anae’s departure? Tafua seemed to step up his pass rushing last season. Maxs Tupai is a beast but doesn’t have the long arms I usually see from elite pass rushers. Hunter Dimick didn’t have long arms either, and he exploded his senior year, maybe he could be in the mold of Dimick.

Tafua is good. Tupai is a rapid burn guy, so somebody else is going to get snaps.

They’re young, but they’re physically beyond typical FR, so maybe we’ll see Fillinger & Carlton. No redshirts to burn.

As inexperienced as our DL is, we do have some proven talen there. Mika Tafua is the next star at Utah. He will step into that role just like every DE steps into that role. Tupai is a solid, solid, solid DE at worst. Devin Kaufusi is an experienced player who is better suited for our defense than BYU’s. Then you add in reps from Suguturaga, Filinger, Kuithe. We will be solid at DE. Not anywhere near inexperienced or bad. Above average.

As for the DT spot, H. Pututau, Pita Tonga are more than above average P12 starters and Moala is a star in the making. Plus we have a lot of size and young talent behind those three.

Our DL will be good. Not last year good, but top 1/3rd in the P12.

Our LB’s are super experienced. We have Lloyd, who has potential to be the best LB in the P12. We have Sewell, who has over two years of starting experience between Nevada and Utah. Our LB’s will be top half of the P12.

The biggest question mark is the secondary. Lots of youth, lots of inexperience, lots of potential. If they can just be ok, this will be a very, very good defense. Not last year amazing, but still far from the worst defense we’ve had in the P12.

Even with all the losses, our DE is very experienced, our DT’s are very experienced and our LB’s are very experienced.

It won’t be nearly as worrisome as some are making it out to be. I think they give up 21-24 points per game. And if our offense can put the 35 points per game like I think we can, we will do just fine.

4-2 is our floor.

This is the $64,000 question - we will see offenses that can hold off DL pressure and require MS to order up blitzes.

What packages will depend on the opponent, of course, but of the back 7, Lloyd is unquestionably solid in whatever he needs to do. He’s really the QB of the defense, especially in the front 7. (A little hard for a LB to have all the coverages down, but he’ll know all the blitzes, what the DL is doing and what the LBs should be doing and most of what the Safeties should be doing in filling lanes on run support.)

If Phillips is as advertised, he could be solid on NB blitzes. I would expect JT Broughton to likewise be a threat on CB blitzes, and he’s a track guy, which always helps.

We’ll probably have a few head-scratcher blown coverages by Sewell and whoever the other S is besides Hubert. Reading the tea leaves, don’t be surprised if Nate Ritchie is starting, if not to begin with, later in the season.

I’ll guess Shah will rotate CBs as we need to find out who can play, and the way we press, it’s a high energy position, even for guys who are used to running a lot.

I think this year - especially early - the offense will need to lead. Against USC & ASU… just have to hope the talent has gelled enough to give us a chance to win.