EA Sports' NCAA Football 14 gave the Arizona Wildcats an 86 overall ranking. Rich Rodriguez leading the Wildcats to a bowl game in 2012 certainly leapt over the expectations but in doing so created false ones heading into 2013. Gimmicky or not, Arizona's option offense led by Matt Scott and 3-3-5 defense led by the few defensive recruits Mike Stoops left behind worked better than imaginable last year, but Year 2 could be a fall back to reality.
Recruiting, or the lack thereof, is bound to catch up to the Wildcats at some point. Losing Scott to the NFL and Austin Hill to an ACL tear magnifies the issues. Ka'Deem Carey is the only dynamic talent left. If there's any of that on defense remains to be seen.
Offesive rating: 86
Arizona's offensive rating of 86 seems fair. Carey's overall talent will be the main reason most Pac-12 defenses won't be overlooking the Wildcats, but after that it's mighty questionable.
The receiving group is still looking for the go-to guy. As I told the bloggers at Addicted to Quack in a podcast a few weeks ago, sophomore David Richards could emerge. Speedster Garic Wharton could establish himself as an inside threat. And Terrence Miller can be mighty productive if he remains healthy.
The offensive line is in decent shape, but the quarterback issues are the obvious area of concern. No, this isn't only about losing Scott. This is about looking at about five guys right now and not having one stand out. B.J. Denker, Jesse Scroggins, Nick Isham, Javelle Allen and incoming freshman Anu Solomon are in the mix, but if one doesn't immediately separate himself, 2013 could be a long season.
And hence, the apprehension from the EA folk regarding a schematically-dynamic offense.
Defensive rating: 88
Oddly enough, the defense has a higher ranking than the offense. Certainly, it's fair to say that the offense has more issues across the board. Lacking a leader under center is no doubt the worst way to go into a season. But what's of the defense?
Experience is there, but that might not be all that helpful. Jeff Casteel will need to stay ahead of the scouting curve now that the Pac-12 knows what he's up to -- you'd think that coaches will expect the scrappy little Wildcats to bring the house in pressure-cookin' 3rd-down situations next season.
Size is the biggest issue on defense. The secondary likely is in decent shape with Jonathan McKnight and (maybe a more controlled) Shaq Richardson back. Jake Fischer will again take the leadership role and have Marquis Flowers challenging to become the best playmaker in the linebacking corps.
On the defensive line, Sione Tuihalamaka is expected to have a big senior season.
Still, this team is small. It's likely not all that much more deep than last season.
The offense very well could end up being better than the defense. But yeah, NCAA Football 14 took the safe bet and gave the defense the better rating. Still, amazing to fathom considering the numbers this team gave up last season.
Just to keep it real, remember that New Mexico Bowl fiasco?