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It is that time of year again. We are only four weeks away from Arizona football! Since I can not wait for the season to start, and I am sure everyone in Tucson can not wait either, I will give my predictions and an overall preview of the season.
Arizona is currently ranked 22nd in the USA Today Preseason Coaches Poll. Currently ranked behind five PAC-12 teams, Oregon (5), USC (10), UCLA (14), the team up north (16), and Stanford (21).
Now preseason polls generally do not mean that much, but with that being said, the fact that a UCLA team which lost its quarterback and only real playmaker to the NFL Draft and is still ranked that high is absurd. In my opinion, that shows how important brand recognition is when it comes to these polls.
Look at Oregon for another example — who knows who its quarterback is going to be? It is expected that Oregon will be Oregon and find an adequate replacement and stay dominant. But the main thing that we learned from the coaches poll is that after a 10-4 season and a team that is returning their backfield, top receiver and Scooby Wright, the Wildcats are still underrated and overlooked.
So what is Arizona capable of this year?
They have an easier schedule this year than last year and the main difference being the absence of Oregon and playing NAU instead of UNLV. With that being said, the Pac-12 is one of the top two conferences in the nation, no matter who you talk to and Arizona is still going to have to play well every week to get victories.
The Wildcats play UCLA at home to begin their Pac-12 campaign trying to avenge their loss last year in Pasadena. This UCLA team will be unlike any Bruin team that Arizona has faced the past couple years because of the loss of Brett Hundley to the NFL Draft.
He was the motor to that offense and losing him will surely make them a completely different team.
After the UCLA game, Arizona will have no time to rest as they go to Stanford, where Arizona has not won since 2006 and Stanford has won the last three meetings overall.
The middle portion of the schedule has the traditionally weak teams such as Oregon State, Colorado and Washington State. All three of those games are easy to look past which gives those string of games the best chance for the Wildcats to be upset in 2015.
Arizona has a difficult finale to the season. The Wildcats first go on the road to Washington, which Arizona beat on a game-winning field goal as time expired in 2014. Then they have to go to USC, which is a much more dangerous team this year than the USC teams of the past because of the end of its three-year sanctions.
In 2015, USC will have all of its available scholarships back, which means fresher legs late in the game on the defensive side and more weapons on the offensive side. That is why many people have them winning the Pac-12 this year. Also, the entire USC program has viewed those sanctions as unfair and we may see a more motivated Trojans team this year than ever before.
Then Arizona has the Utes coming to Tucson. Utah is coming off its best season since joining the Pac-12 but with new coordinators on both sides of the ball, many people are overlooking Utah this season which makes this an interesting test because no one truly knows what to expect from the Utes.
Lastly, Arizona goes up to Tempe and plays the team up north which is always a toss up no matter who has the better team coming into it.
Prediction: A big part of this prediction is based off of Anu Solomon, who during the 2014 season showed flashes of greatness such as late in the Cal game and in the first meeting with Oregon.
He also looked like the inexperienced freshman at times such as in the Pac-12 championship game and at the end of the Fiesta Bowl.
But I believe with another year under Rich Rod and getting to know his receivers better, in 2015 we see the poised Anu he showed flashes of in 2014. When all is said and done, the Wildcats will go 10-2 in the regular season and finish second in the Pac-12 south behind USC.
They will go on to win the Sun Bowl to finish 11-2. Hopefully I’m wrong and the Cats will smell roses instead.