Kostecka (Ducks Maven): After being a trendy Pac-12 South contender, what's gone wrong that's led to the disappointing start?
Gimino (Arizona Maven): Adjustment to new coaching staff/different approach on offense — The coaching staff wanted to make Khalil Tate more of a well-rounded pocket passer, a worthy goal, but Tate himself seemed to eschew running opportunities in order to show off his arm, and then he hurt his ankle in the second game that seemed to limit his cutting ability. Whatever the reason, without Tate running like he did last season, the offense was stagnant — Starting center Nathan Eldridge has been out all season and left tackle Layth Friekh has missed about half of the season due to ineligibility and injury. He sat out last week. Arizona doesn't have the depth on the offensive line to be without it two best linemen — Defense has had its share of injuries, too, and hasn't made the hoped-for improvement to at least be average statistically. The team's best cornerback, senior Jace Whittaker, has played in only one series all season.
Basically, with Tate and a favorable schedule (no Washington or Stanford), there were reasons for preseason optimism, but Tate hasn't been a difference-maker, while injuries at key spots have further made life too difficult at times.
Kostecka: This is head coach Kevin Sumlin's first season at Arizona -- what are the changes you've seen in the program and players compared to the Rich Rod-led teams?
Gimino: On the field, the big thing is the de-emphasis of the zone-read, which was Rodriguez's baby. It's still in the playbook, of course, but whether it was because of Tate's reads or how defenses were playing him, the quarterback run game just hasn't been that big of a factor. When RichRod's offenses were at their best, the quarterback run was a great equalizer when going against teams with superior talent.
Kostecka: How different are the Wildcats with Tate running it compared to Rodriguez?
Gimino: Rhett Rodriguez is the opposite of Tate. The son of the former coach has modest athletic skills, but he has a high football IQ, can make the right pre-snap reads and knows where to go with the ball after the snap. He doesn't have Tate's power arm -- the long outs have seemed problematic for RhettRod -- but he has touch on the deep ball.
A healthy Tate might be a Lamborghini. Rodriguez might be more like a Corolla ... but sometimes a Corolla gets you where you need to go.
Kostecka: What/who has been the most impressive for the Wildcats this year? Who do you think will give the Ducks the most trouble?
Gimino: A few bright spots. Running back JJ Taylor is dangerous, especially when UA gets him to the outside, where he can use his quick feet to make people miss. Wide receiver Shawn Poindexter, at 6-foot-5, has emerged as a senior, with his height being an obvious mismatch issue.
Junior college defensive lineman PJ Johnson — the older brother of Oregon linebacker D.J. Johnson — can play inside or outside on the line, and he's made everybody better up front.
But, no doubt, the team's MVP is middle linebacker Colin Schooler, the younger brother of Oregon WR Brenden Schooler. Colin has 14.5 tackles for loss and is aggressive against the run, while also being able to handle plenty of coverage responsibilities.
Kostecka: Who wins, and why?
Gimino: Arizona hasn't been able to deal with physical teams, and "physical" is actually one thing you can say about Oregon this season.
The advantage at the quarterback position is one thing -- Justin Herbert vs. TBA -- but the Ducks should control the line of scrimmage and be just fine if they don't have an emotional letdown after the past two weeks.