TUCSON, Ariz. — Two games into the season, one glaring question remains for Arizona: How good is this team, really?
It’s still anyone’s guess, even with the Wildcats boasting a 2-0 record. It’s no fault of Arizona, which has opened with a 35-0 victory over Northern Arizona and a 58-13 rout of UNLV. You can only play the teams on the schedule.
And thus far, the Cats have done exactly what was hoped for. Can they continue the trend? They certainly should, as a forgiving nonconference schedule continues Saturday when Texas-San Antonio visits Arizona Stadium. Arizona is a 25 1/2-point favorite.
That said, the Roadrunners might not be the roadkill some expect them to be. They came from behind to beat New Mexico 21-13 with a dramatic late touchdown in their season opener, and last week, after getting blown out in the first half by No. 12 Oklahoma State, they rallied to make it a respectable 56-35 defeat.
But what’s clear is Arizona is paying $700,000 for Texas-San Antonio to come visit. UTSA, in just its third year as a program, needs the money to continue establishing a viable program, and Arizona needs the work — and ideally the win — before heading into Pac-12 play after a bye next week.
As was established on college football’s upset-filled opening weekend, though, nothing is a given. And with that in mind, the Wildcats have their attention focused solely on the Roadrunners, who have won five of their last seven games with an offense that’s shown the ability to put up big numbers.
“I’ve been really impressed with UTSA,” Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. “Offensively, they scored 35 points against Oklahoma State, and Mississippi State only scored three points against Oklahoma State. UTSA has a good quarterback (Eric Soza), great skill players, fast guys on the perimeter and good running backs
“It’s going to be a challenge, and our guys will see that.”
Worth adding is that the Roadrunners have scored touchdowns on six of their seven red-zone opportunities this year.
To Arizona’s credit, its defense is much improved from a year ago. Again, quality-of-opponent caveats apply, but the Wildcats are now in their second year of a 3-3-5 scheme and have greater depth, which has been and will continue to be beneficial.
Through two games, Arizona is allowing just 276 total yards per game.
“The last time I played on a defense this dominant was when I was in high school,” said defensive lineman Tevin Hood. “It’s nice to get back to that feeling. It keeps the fear in the offense and allows us to control the game from a defensive standpoint.”
Of going up against Texas-San Antonio, Hood added: “They run a different scheme, but I am confident in our defense. We come to play every week, and if we come to play again, we will shut them down.”