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Arizona vs. BYU game predictions

Our official picks for the Wildcats’ first game of 2016.

NCAA Football: Utah at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

The first day of the 2016 season is upon us!

So what’s your prediction for the game? Let us know as we offer up ours:

Gabe Encinas: I think in a bigger (more hyped up) game like this, it could go either way for Arizona. I could see UA edging out a win, much like they did all throughout the 2014 season, or they will just dig themselves in a hole and won’t be able to come back.

I’m not sure the offense did the defense a whole lot of favors with constant stalled drives last year. With the fast-paced offense, that gave the defense maybe about two minutes of real time, 45 seconds of in-game time to recoup and get ready to go back on the field.

Anu Solomon will likely come out as the starter and if he can play like he has in past non-conference games, then this is a win for Arizona. Protect the ball, make smart throws -- do what he does best -- then the offense clicks and it puts the pressure on both the opposing offense and defense.

Final score: 38-34 Arizona

Drake Horner: This game is full of question marks. With Bronco Mendenhall leaving for Virginia, there are all kind of questions on what BYU is gonna do. Kalani Sitake is the new head coach and he comes from Oregon State and Utah, so Arizona is somewhat familiar with what he does on defense. But on offense, UA is having to dig through a ton of old film to figure out what the Cougars may do. BYU doesn’t know what Arizona is going to run on defense either.

So this game could end in a number of ways, but I think it’ll be a shootout with two experienced quarterbacks (assuming Solomon starts). In the end, I feel like with Arizona’s veteran wide receiver corps and a healthy one-two punch of Nick Wilson and Orlando Bradford, the Wildcats will be too much for BYU to handle. I think Arizona squeaks by on a late touchdown.

Arizona 38 BYU 35

Steve Apter: BYU poses a number of challenges for this Arizona team. Arizona has had inconsistent play at quarterback and BYU has a strong secondary. Arizona is thin on the defensive line, BYU has two decent runners. Arizona is a little undersized at corner, BYU’s top returning receiver is 6-foot-6 and 215 pounds. Although BYU certainly will feel the loss of head coach Bronco Mendenhall to Virginia, they are aided in 2016 by a roster loaded with returning starters.

Arizona has yet to officially announce a decision on their starting quarterback (they have Anu Solomon OR Brandon Dawkins listed as their QB1). Whomever is behind center is going to have to deal with a talented and fast BYU defense that returns eight starters, including safety Kai Nacua, who had six interceptions last year which he returned for 137 yards (A BYU record for a single season) and two touchdowns.

BYU has two capable runners with different styles in Jamaal Williams (lettered in track in high school and has nearly 2,500 career rushing yards) and Algie Brown (power runner listed at 250 pounds on BYU’s website, rushed for just over 700 yards last season). On the outside, the Cougars have a big target at receiver in Nick Kurtz, who had three touchdowns and 578 receiving yards last year.

BYU 31 - Arizona 27

Alec Sills-Trausch: Without seeing Arizona’s defense live yet, I’m going into the season with the mentality that their questionable skill set will keep opposing teams in the game. Plus, BYU is experienced on the offensive side with nine starters returning while U of A has seven. In other words, I expect this to be a shootout like Drake alluded to.

What could be a game changer is how BYU has an almost entirely new staff with little-to-no game time experience. Could that be the difference? We’ll find out soon.

In the end, playing closer to home and having a more potent offense (including arguably the conference's best running tandem), plus an invigorated and motivated Anu Solomon will be too much for the BYU Cougars.

Score: Arizona 45 - BYU 34

Brandon Combs: If the offense is firing on all cylinders and this new multiple look, aggressive defense confuses BYU’s offense, then I believe it's Arizona.

Last year the offense didn't help their cause with miscues (such as multiple botched snaps) that led to stalled drives. This, in turn, did not help the defense rest.

On the other side of the ball, the defense had a ton of injuries. That led to a lot of young, inexperienced players seeing massive amounts of playing time. Couple that with a lack of energy and ineffective defensive coaching, and you have the 114th defense in the nation.

This year, however, is different. I predict the defense to show up and step up. I also expect that Arizona’s offense will be too much for BYU to handle.

Final Score: 42-30 Arizona

Ryan Kelapire: This is a really tough game to predict because not even Arizona’s coaches know what BYU will look like. They have a new coach and are likely to come out in different schemes than year’s past, on both sides of the ball. And the same is also true for Arizona defensively.

Rich Rodriguez was concerned about BYU’s size and you have to wonder how Arizona’s small defense will do against BYU’s notoriously big offensive line.

That said, I’m confident that Arizona’s offense — no matter who the quarterback is — will be able to move the ball consistently.

So what that leaves us with is a high-scoring game.

The winner? I’ll take BYU.

Score: 38-31 BYU

David Potts: I think BYU takes it. I don’t trust the defense (at least not yet), and even if our offense is firing on all cylinders, I think BYU has enough to match.

BYU, 42-35

Jason Bartel: I’ve been conflicted on how this game will play out basically since the end of last season. Both of these teams have so many unknowns that I really have no idea what to expect.

That said, I think BYU will take this one in Sitake’s first game as a head coach as Arizona’s defense works out the kinks.

BYU, 35-30