Returning Starters – Offense: 7 Defense: 5
Preview: Arizona really came out of nowhere last season to reach the Pac-12 title game while also getting to double digit victories. Rich Rodriguez continues to prove himself as a top flight head coach when the program he’s with is fully behind him. Now Rich Rod will look to have some staying power at Arizona much like he had during his time with West Virginia.
A successful Rich Rodriguez team always starts on the offensive side of the ball. The Wildcats return 7 starters including QB Anu Solomon who’s the first holdover the Wildcats have had at the position since Rodriguez joined the fray. Solomon wasn’t perfect behind center during his freshman campaign, but that’s nitpicking for a guy who threw for 3,793 yards and 28 TDs. RB is also a position of strength with sophomore Nick Wilson returning after rushing for 1,375 yards during his freshman season. Arizona is loaded with depth, talent, and experience at WR headlined by Cayled Jones and the O-line is set for success other than the center position.
Arizona’s three man front is led by Reggie Gilbert who was awarded a 5th year. LB is the strength of the Wildcats’ defense with Pac-12 DPOY Scooby Wright coming off an incredible year where he racked up 163 tackles and 14 sacks. The Wildcats needed to replace 3 starters in the secondary, but the backend of the defense has potential with some new faces in the mix. Two former receivers are in the mix at corner with Denson and Neal.
Prediction: Arizona might very well be one of the more overlooked teams again in the Pac-12 coming into the season. The Wildcats certainly have enough talent returning to make a play for the Pac-12 title. If the Wildcats can get back UCLA and Stanford to open conference play, then it’s very possible this team could go into their road game against USC 9-0. It would be a surprise, but anything short of a return trip to the conference title game would have to be considered a disappointment for a program with rising expectations.
Projected Record: 10-2 (7-2)