BOULDER, Colo. -
Two weeks ago in Tucson, Arizona stunned USC and bolted back into the Top 25.
Then came an embarrassing 66-10 pratfall at UCLA. Coach Rich Rodriguez's up-and-down first season was down again. Now the Wildcats will be home again, but probably without quarterback Matt Scott, who is doubtful because of a concussion.
Yet Arizona (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12) may well get by without its dynamic quarterback because the opponent is Colorado (1-8, 1-5), a team beaten 48-0 at home by Stanford last weekend.
This game, incredibly, features teams beaten a week ago by a combined score of 114-10.
Rodriquez, though, thinks the Buffaloes will have reason to believe they can win this one, simply by watching UCLA's demolition of the Wildcats.
"They have eight returners on a defense that beat us by 20 (last season)," Rodriguez said. "Our guys understand that they have players, and the same guys that beat us last year are coming to our place this year."
If Scott can't go, junior college transfer B.J. Denker will get his first Arizona start. Denker threw for 2,319 yards and 31 touchdowns at Cerritos College.
"We have all the confidence in B.J.," center Kyle Quinn said. "There are a few things that he does do differently because he is a lefty. But we run a shotgun so it shouldn't affect us too much. He can direct our offense and make the plays."
At Arizona, Denker has seen extremely limited time behind Scott, completing 13 of 23 passes for 123 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He finished up the game against UCLA after Scott was hurt.
"B.J. is playing all right," Rodriguez said. "I think his decision making, his demeanor, and his command on what we are asking him to do is good. It is kind of a tough situation to go in when we are that far behind. I thought he made a couple good decisions and a couple good throws. He has a good grasp on what we are doing offensively."
Denker's backup would be wide receiver Richard Morrison.
"All spring he was the quarterback, and probably a little bit of training camp," Rodriguez said. "This week he will be taking more reps at quarterback. Richard had pretty good command of (the offense) in the spring and he throws the ball pretty well."
There will be a change at quarterback for Colorado. Jordan Webb, the starter in all nine games, will go to the bench in favor of either Nick Hirschman or Connor Wood. Hirschman has started before, an ineffective appearance against Arizona State last season.
"We're going to let Jordan kind of sit back and watch some things and see if that helps him some," Colorado coach Jon Embree said. "It'll be between (Nos.) 5 and 8, Nick and Connor, so we'll see how that goes during the week."
Wood has never started. Both are prototypical, big QBs -- Wood is 6-3, Hirschman 6-4. They were beaten out by Webb, who transferred from Kansas.
"Nick is a blue collar, big, strong, tough guy -- maybe not as smooth as Connor," Colorado quarterbacks coach Rip Scherer said. "(Wood) is a little smoother athletically. They both bring different things to the table."
Colorado ranks last in the conference in scoring, total offense and passing offense, and next-to-last in rushing.
Arizona may compensate for the loss of Scott by offering a bigger dose of running back Kadeem Carey, who has rushed for 1,015 yards, averaging 5.1 yards per carry and scoring 13 touchdowns along the way.
"Colorado might feel that they have a better chance after our game against UCLA," linebacker Jake Fischer said, "but we are going to prepare for them the way that we have been preparing for the other games. We're not going to forget completely about the UCLA loss. We're going to learn from the loss but that game is in the past. We have to treat this game like any other game and prepare for their formations and schemes."
Depth is a problem for the home team, particularly on defense.
"We are playing everybody, every healthy body we've got defensively," Rodriguez said. "I have never been in a situation as thin as we were to start the season. We are razor-thin defensively but now we are past that. If we do our job in recruiting and developing we will never be in that situation again. We will never be in the situation where we are playing guys truly before they're ready to play."
It's a rare morning kickoff in Tucson -- 11:30 a.m. MST. With a win, Arizona would become bowl eligible.