1. ARIZONA WIN TOTAL PREDICTION: WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN
A tighter, sharper 2018 Arizona team goes bowling without breathing hard.
It should’ve beaten BYU in the home opener. It should’ve beaten USC. It should’ve taken out UCLA and Arizona State, too. In all, the Wildcats played five games decided by seven points or fewer and lost four of them – those loses to the Bruins and Sun Devils were by one point each.
But head coach Kevin Sumlin got the offense to work. As long as this year’s offensive line can field a consistent and healthy starting five, it should all work again thanks to the backfield of QB Khalil Tate and RB JJ Taylor.
Yeah, the receiving corps is a wee bit thin and could use a No. 1 target, but again, it’s a Kevin Sumlin offense – the passing game will show up.
The defense is another story.
After a rough year and a disastrous finish, the experience is in place to at least start to hold serve from time to time.
It’s been several years since the Arizona football program could consistently slow down the forward pass, but the secondary is promising. The linebackers in the 4-2-5 alignment are terrific, and the front four has the ends, but needs the beefy bodies on the interior to step up.
In all, it’s a good enough team to start winning more of the close games, so after going 5-7 …
Set The Regular Season Win Total At … 7
Arizona biffed the opener against BYU last year, and this time around it has to go to Hawaii.
It biffed the non-conference game against Houston – getting its doors blown off – and this year it has to play Texas Tech.
Worst of all, last year was when the Pac-12 was gettable with so much turnover and a down USC, and against, Arizona went 5-7.
However, this is a stronger, better team that should be able to beat teams like Hawaii and Texas Tech. It’ll beat Northern Arizona, and it’ll take out Oregon State. But it has to go on the road to deal with an improved Colorado, an improved USC, an improved Stanford, an improved Oregon, and Arizona State. Win two of those games, and a bowl game is in the picture. Win three, and it’s a lock.
The home dates in the Pac-12 against UCLA, Washington and Utah are no picnic, either.
It won’t be easy, but the offense will be potent enough to win enough shootouts to come up with a winning season. It just might not be quite the breakthrough year Wildcat fans are hoping for.