Midseason report: Arizona

It’s been a weird start to year No. 2 for Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez. The Wildcats jumped out to a 3-0 start in nonconference play, which was expected, and then dropped its first two league games to No. 16 Washington and USC.

With seven games left to play -- including two of the next three against sub.500 Colorado and California, the Wildcats are still in a very strong position to reach the postseason. This week’s game against Utah will be telling. A victory puts them in strong position to win three straight and reach bowl eligibility before closing out the year with UCLA, Washington State, Oregon and Arizona State.

The big concern has been the passing game. B.J. Denker had a solid statistical performance in the loss to USC, but he’s still completing just 54.5 percent of his throws with six touchdowns to two interceptions. But both coach and quarterback seem encouraged.

The defense has shown a marked improvement from last season. The Wildcats boast a plus-five turnover margin with seven interceptions. Arizona ranks 22nd overall in scoring defense, allowing just 19 points per game -- though since league play has started, they gave up 29 to Washington (two points were a safety) and 38 to USC.

With only five games to work with, and only two in league play, it’s still tough to gauge exactly who Arizona is. If the passing attack continues to show the sort of improvement it did against the Trojans, the Wildcats should be a bowl-bound team with seven, maybe eight wins. But they need to take advantage of the schedule before it ramps up with four tough games to close out the year.

Offensive MVP: Though he missed the first game of the season, running back Ka’Deem Carey continues to be the heart of the Wildcats offense. He’s second in the conference with 142.2 rushing yards per game and has totaled 569 yards on the ground with five touchdowns.

Defensive MVP: True freshman Scooby Wright has been sensational. But Tra’Mayne Bondurant has been a serious playmaker in the first half of the year. With three interceptions on the season -- including one returned for a touchdown, the safety has posted 29 tackles with three for a loss, a sack and a team-high six passes defended.