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Great Debate: Offense vs. Defense

Coming off the upset of USC, to beat the bruins will offense or defense be key?
We debate. You decide.

Mike Menges says Arizona linebacker Marquis Flowers and the Wildcats defense are key to tonight's success.

Mike Menges says: There's no doubt that the offense looked solid against USC, but when it came down to it, the defense made stops to win the game. To beat UCLA, Arizona will have to have a similar formula. UCLA is averaging 33.4 points per game and they have put up over 40 points in four games this year. Arizona's defense will definitely be key in securing a victory this week. Another strong performance from Marquis Flowers will also be needed. The Bruins already have a 1000 yard rusher in Johnathan Franklin and the Cats must be aware of this explosive player at all times.

Gary Randazzo says:: I'm a big proponent of teams needing to establish their own running game in order to win on the road. Arizona's ground attack continues to improve as the Wildcats today rank 31st nationally and third in league with 199.3 rush yards per game. In Arizona's 39-36 victory over USC,
its ability to convert two first downs on seven consecutive rush attempts while eating four minutes of game clock late put the Trojans in a serious hole. If Arizona's running the football with success
Saturday in Pasadena, defense won't matter.

Mike says: My biggest concern was your point in our Washington debate, if the Cats are giving up points to teams that can't score, what do they do against teams that can? Rushing the ball well is definitely important, but if you can't stop the run, it will be even more detrimental. The fact that Arizona can score is not enough, they need to shut down the Bruin offense and continue to grow as a defense. I have no fear in the outcome not being in Arizona’s favor, but there is also a need to improve every game. Wouldn't it be nice to see a game in which the Cats not only score, but also control the line defensively?

Gary says: If Arizona ever started controlling the line defensively this team would be a legitimate Pac-12 title contender. For now, one can only dream. Instead, Arizona needs to continue to play aggressively on offense, trying to keep the Bruins on their heels and hopefully wear them down as the game drags on. The Wildcats are averaging 6.3 yards per play and before we attribute that to an effective passing game, noteworthy is that Arizona is averaging 4.9 yards per rush. My concern
offensively this week is will Matt Scott even attempt to carry the football as many times as he did against USC in fear of not being hit, but actually injured. Scott may have avoided a concussion last
weekend, but he also took more hits to the head than Curly in a Three Stooges skit.

Mike says: Love the Stooges reference. While the Wildcats per play average is impressive, their defense is giving up 4.4 yards per rush and 6 yards per play. If they want to beat the Bruins, those averages need to go down. We have seen Arizona's defense make stops and cause turnovers. Their turnover margin this year is plus four, while UCLA's is minus six. To help insure victory, Arizona needs to continue this positive margin and create extra possessions for their offense with some caused fumbles and interceptions.

Gary says: Turnovers are key, but Arizona's plus-four turnover margin is somewhat skewed in that the positive margin was produced in a single game (USC committed five turnovers to Arizona's one last week). To your point, though, and to help build my own case as to why Arizona's offense is the key, the Cats need to protect the football while also hoping that last weekend's penalty fest was an anomaly in an otherwise penalty free season. If the Wildcats are protecting the football and not committing the silly penalties against UCLA, their offense is good enough to win the day in what I think will be a high-scoring affair.

Mike predicts: It's important that Arizona does not get into a shoot out with UCLA. Not only are the Bruins explosive offensively, but the game is in Pasadena. Oftentimes home field advantage can be overlooked, but in this case, I think the Cats need to be careful with large momentum swings playing on the road. The one true way to kill any Bruin momentum is to get stops, and that is why the defense will have to win this game.

Okay, time for predictions. I think it's finally time for the Wildcat defense to put together four quarters and really shut down an opponent. UCLA can score the football, but after the USC win, Arizona will be confident and sharp. Arizona wins 35-17.

Gary Randazzo argues Austin Hill and the Arizona offense are more important tonight against UCLA.

Gary predicts: UCLA has produced points 82% of the time inside the red zone (31-for-38). Meanwhile, Arizona’s getting it done 75% of the time (38-for-51). Interestingly, you take away the 0-for-6 effort at Oregon and the Cats are scoring on 84% of their red zone possessions. These stats will serve to produce another high-scoring game when you consider that the Bruins and Arizona defenses are allowing opponents to score 88% and 82% inside the red zone, respectively.

Arizona hasn’t allowed a sack in its last two games, which is very impressive. I agree that playing on the road magnifies the importance of executing well and high-scoring affairs often favor the home team because all it takes is one gaffe during a shootout to really turn the tide. Still, I think the experience of losing at Stanford 54-48 in overtime will serve the Cats well and understand that no lead is ever too big. I can envision Arizona creating some separation early in the fourth quarter, then seeing UCLA storm back to make things close. This time, however, Arizona closes the contest more like they did against then-No.8 USC rather than their road loss to the Cardinal. Arizona 48, UCLA 45.

We debate. You decide. Join Mike, Gary, Brad Allis and others in the WSR Chat Room tonight when Arizona visits UCLA at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Chat Room opens at 30 minutes prior to kickoff.

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