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Another fourth-place finish signals another rebuilding year for third-year Arizona Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez.
Leading up to today’s Pac-12 Media Day, the media that covers the conference selected Arizona to finish fourth in the South for the third consecutive year under Rodriguez.
The Wildcats are predicted to finish behind UCLA, USC and ASU. Utah and Colorado are projected to finish fifth and sixth, respectively. UCLA received 37 first-place votes while USC and ASU each had one. The Sun Devils, the defending South champs, must replace nine defensive starters, yet they have a first-place vote.
Oregon is picked to win the North with 37 first-place votes followed by Stanford (two). The rest of the North: Washington, Oregon State, Washington State and Cal.
Rodriguez’s first two teams that were predicted to finish fourth in the South did just that with identical records of 4-5 in the Pac-12 and 8-5 overall with bowl victories.
If Arizona finishes fourth again with the same type of record, will Wildcat fans accept that? The answer is yes, in my opinion, because Rodriguez is still in the rebuilding mode with another new quarterback and a developing defense. A victory over ASU for the first time in his tenure would alleviate any pressure that might build from another second-division finish in the South.
Arizona at least has the element of surprise, not to mention motivation from its predicted fourth-place finish, in its favor as it tries to capture the South title for the first time.
The Wildcats have not succeeded as the favorite in past years. They were picked to win the Pac-10 title in 1983, 1994 and 1999. Their best finish was at second in 1994 with the Desert Swarm. They finished fifth with Ricky Hunley and Tom Tunnicliffe in 1983 and sixth with Trung Canidate and Dennis Northcutt in 1999.