In our effort to look at Arizona's season opener against UTSA in every way imaginable, we're taking a look at the numbers underlying the Arizona/UTSA match-up.
SBNation's Bill Connelly wrote previews for literally every FBS team during the offseason. At the end of all this, Bill Connelly ranked all 128 FBS teams. Of those 128 teams, he ranked UTSA 127th. That's not very good! As Jared Kalmus over at Underdog Dynasty told us on Monday, UTSA lost a ton of senior talent and returned just five starters. UTSA will get much better next year, but for the time being, this team has very little experience and, as such, is getting very little respect.
The spread for this game in Vegas is gigantic, opening at Arizona -30.5 before moving even more in Arizona's favor to Arizona -31.5. That's a significantly larger spread than Arizona faced in any game last season. No matter how you slice it, Arizona is a massive favorite and should win.
Last season, Anu Solomon stormed onto the scene in the UNLV game, putting up video game numbers (though missing on a couple of deep routes) and showing a ton of promise. His second game - which was the UTSA game - showed that he was mortal. Anu averaged 7.2 yards per attempt that game, which was one of his worst outings of the season. This season, Anu should perform much better. This game is at home, he has much more experience under his belt, and he's playing a less-experienced UTSA. Expect to see him improve on that 7.2 yards per attempt in this game.
...but while Anu Solomon struggled, Nick Wilson thrived. Wilson only had 7 carries in the opener last year against UNLV (though he gashed them for 104 yards), but Wilson took charge of the running back position against UTSA. He was a workhorse, racking up 30 carries for 174 yards. If Nick Wilson performs as well on Thursday as he did against UTSA last year, Arizona will be in great shape.
Ultimately, this is what it boils down to: UTSA returns only five starters from last year's team. UTSA is introducing a new offense this season that will feature almost entirely new players. We can look back on last year's team - or even last year's game - and try to extrapolate what will happen on Thursday, but UTSA hit the reset button after last season, so anything could happen, really. The one thing we can bank on is that UTSA just won't have any experience, and by getting to face that team in its first game (a road game, at that), Arizona lucked out.
UTSA will get better. They will get better this season and they will get even better next season. But right now, UTSA has to go on the road and face the defending Pac-12 South champions with a lot of players who have never started a college football game. Arizona needs - needs - to take advantage of that.