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2009 Holiday Bowl : Nebraska vs Arizona - Ask An Expert

Figuring out bowl opponents can be pretty difficult, especially if you want to get more that the standard media coverage that looks at the major story lines, i.e., star players, human interest stories kind of stuff.

It's much easier when you can just ask the other guys about their team, so we did. We teamed up with Joe Newberry (Joenewby4040) at the SB Nation site "Arizona Desert Swarm" to get some information about the Wildcats.

[Updated - Mike and I also responded to questions from the Arizona site, here.]

1. Describe your overall feelings about the Wildcats season.  Are you more happy with the victories than upset about the losses? Staying along those lines, how happy are Arizona fans with Mike Stoops, and how much will Mark Stoops leaving the program affect your team in the future?

My overall feeling about the Wildcats season would be disappointing.  I am easily more upset about the losses than happy about the victories.  Any Wildcat fan that followed the 2009 season will tell you the same.  The Wildcats had three losses (Washington, Cal, and Oregon) that transpired with under 2:00 in the game. 

Washington - We are leading and on about our 40 yard line when we throw the ball on a screeen.  The ball is low, pops straight up in the air and is returned for a TD by Washington for the win. 

Cal - We are in FG range to put the game away with under 2:00 to play.  Foles throws right, the ball pops up in the air, Foles catches it AND THROWS IT AGAIN.  Spot foul, 15 yards, AND loss of down.  No more FG range = loss. 

Oregon - We are winning and they drove the field to tie it with :06 on the clock. Should have had that one too. 

The loss of Mark Stoops will not be as dramatic as some think.  He was not one of our best recruiters and was conceptually based by his brother on how to run the AZ defense.  Remember, Mike Stoops used to be a pretty good defensive coordinator at Oklahoma.  Stoops has moved to replace his brother with the hire of Greg Brown to be co-defensive coordinator with Tim Kish, Arizona's LB's coach.

2.  The Stoops brothers specialize in defense, much like the Pelini brothers. Describe the Wildcats defense, and is there a key weakness to Arizona's defense?

Arizona runs a standard 4-3 defense with an incredible front four backed by a mediocre crew of linebackers.  Our DB's are solid and don't give up too many big plays. 

The weakness to Arizona's defense is definitely in the 5-15 yard passing range in the middle of the field.  Our linebackers consistently fail to shut down these passing lanes and have been burned all year because of it. 

3.  Ndamukong Suh eats offensive linemen for lunch, then eats quarterbacks for supper. How has the Wildcats pass protection been this season, and how does Nick Foles respond to pressure?

Arizona's pass protection this year has been better than average.  Our offense is predicated on a lot of quick throws that protect our QB's from the pass rush.  When we do have 3 and 5 step drops, our line has done a good job this year. 

Foles reacts like most QB's his size.  He sidesteps pressure and moves out of the pocket with the agility of a wounded camel.  However, looks can sometimes be deceiving.  He is agile enough to move around most slower DT's and DE's, creating passing opportunities that other QB's can't get.  Expect a big fat double team on Suh all game and a lot of designed quick passes to neutralize the big fella.

4. What kind of offense does Arizona run?  Who are the offensive playmakers  Nebraska fans should be watching out for?

Arizona runs primarily out of the shotgun or single back.  We have three wideouts and a tight end or four wideouts in the formation. 

Our leading running back, Nic Grigsby, has been struggling all year with the injury bug and we have used Keola Antolin and Greg Nwoko as our backups for the most part.  Grigsby should be ready to go for the Holiday Bowl.  Our main receivers are Delashaun Dean and Juron CrinerDavid Douglas and David Roberts are more of our possession receivers who will kill you on the short yardage sticks.  Watch out for Criner.

5. What would a Holiday Bowl win mean for the Wildcat program and it's fans?

Arizona has been struggling as a program since the last Holiday Bowl in 1998 against Nebraska. Our team had to suffer through the Mackovic Era and Stoops is only now starting on a good roll recruiting and winning wise.  Last year was the start of a new tradition of winning in Tucson with a win in the Las Vegas Bowl. 

This year would put Arizona a notch up on the respect o meter, playing against a perennial powerhouse and historic program of Nebraska.  Not to mention, you guys almost knocked off #2 Texas a few weeks ago.  This win would mean a lot to the program in a sense that our recruiting only gets stronger the better the bowl and the bigger the win. 

6. Prediction?

Based on your performance against Texas Tech, I have to say: Arizona 35 vs. Nebraska 14.