Arizona is making steady progress under coach Rich Rodriguez, as the Wildcats are coming off back-to-back 8-5 seasons.
Rodriguez is known as an offensive mastermind, which is crucial for a team that enters fall practice with uncertainty at quarterback, along with the departure of running back Ka’Deem Carey.
The strength of Arizona’s offense rests with a line that returns four starters, including standout tackles Mickey Baucus and Fabbians Ebbele. The receiving corps is also one of the best in the Pac-12, and Austin Hill is back after missing all of 2013 due to a torn ACL.
With the personnel losses at Arizona State, the coaching turnover at USC, and a favorable home slate for the Wildcats, Arizona has a chance to make some noise in the South Division.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven), AthlonSports.com
Kyle Kensing (@kensing45), CFBHuddle.com
David Fox (@DavidFox615), AthlonSports.com
Braden Gall (@BradenGall), AthlonSports.com
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR), AthlonSports.com
Early Arizona Game-by-Game Predictions for 2014
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Arizona is an intriguing team to watch this season. I projected the Wildcats to finish 7-5, but this team could easily finish 8-4 or even 9-3. The defense is getting better under the watchful eye of Jeff Casteel, and the offensive line and receiving corps should be among the best in the Pac-12. However, Arizona’s biggest question marks are on offense, as a quarterback didn’t win the job in the spring, and there’s no clear replacement for standout running back Ka’Deem Carey. Of course, those concerns are lessened by the fact Rich Rodriguez will be calling the plays. However, it’s reasonable to expect some growing pains on that side of the ball. If Jesse Scroggins or Anu Solomon claims the job at quarterback and settles into the offense early in the year, Arizona will be a dangerous out in the second half of the season for the Pac-12.
Kyle Kensing (@kensing45), CFBHuddle.com
It's fair to say Rich Rodriguez exceeded expectations in his first two seasons at Arizona with back-to-back 8-win campaigns. However, UA has yet to finish above .500 in Pac-12 play. The next step for this program is getting to the positive side of the ledger in an increasingly difficult conference. An outstanding offensive line and deep receiving corps will buoy the offense through a very manageable nonconference slate, and the young talent in Jeff Casteel's defense should continue to build on the major strides made last season. With five home Pac-12 games, the Wildcats have a favorable road to that magic 5-win mark in the league, including that all-important victory over Arizona State Rodriguez currently lacks.
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR)
Rich Rodriguez has dealt with quarterback uncertainty before in Tuscon, but this fall he has to replace one of the nation's most productive running backs (Ka'Deem Carey) too. Offense is RichRod's calling card and he should be able to cobble a productive attack with the collection of experienced wide receivers he has returning, but quarterback and backfield production will be key. The defense returns half of its starters and made progress last season, but a pretty tough Pac-12 road slate figures to take its toll on the Wildcats' win total. A third straight bowl bid should be pretty easy to achieve, but any sort of climb in the South Division standings will come down to the offense's development and how well the defense holds up against the likes of Arizona State, Oregon, UCLA, USC and Washington. Get two or more wins out of that quintet of games and it could be a memorable season for Wildcat fans.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Arizona should be poised for a hot start before a rude awakening at Autzen. That August/September schedule good news for a team that exited spring practice with logjam at quarterback. The question is how Arizona can take advantage of the fortuitous home schedule against USC, Washington and Arizona State. Arizona generally finds a way to win a game it shouldn’t at home late in the year. I’ve picked Washington as that game for the Wildcats this season.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
I really like Arizona to make some noise in the Pac-12 South. No, that doesn't mean winning the division but they will win a game or two that they aren't supposed to (like, say, USC at home). Rich Rodriguez has been 4-5 in each of his first two seasons in the league and he has a chance to be over .500 this year if the Cats defense can improve. USC, Arizona State and Washington are prime upset candidates in Tucson this year.