With a primetime ESPN broadcast, hosting College GameDay, having Scooby Wright back on defense, to go along with all of UCLA's injuries on the defensive side of the ball, things were starting to fall in Arizona's favor. Not to mention it was the first road conference game for UCLA freshman quarterback Josh Rosen, facing a 3-3-5 defense, and it seemed as if Arizona might not actually be an underdog. But at the end of the day, Rosen and Paul Perkins exposed the 3-3-5 defense, and the home field advantage was tuned out early on, leaving Arizona flat on its face.
Rich Rodriguez has not won against Jim Mora at UCLA, but to be fair, Rich Rodriguez hasn't had much success vs. the Pac-12 South other than Utah and Colorado, who have been the weakest of the South for the past 3 years now. A combined record of 2-8 vs. Pac-12 South rivals Arizona State, UCLA and USC just isn't going to cut it for the program.
Arizona has come close to beating Pac-12 South rivals, but continues to fall short. They did have the opportunity to take down USC last year, but came up a field goal shy. Another competitive game with ASU back in 2012, falling just short again, followed by a blowout loss in Tempe back in 2013. They were completely shut down last year by UCLA after having them on the ropes at home in 2013. There's just been too much inconsistency within the Pac-12 South for Arizona.
Arizona was under the radar for much of the season last year, and still is to a degree, despite winning the Pac-12 South. But once they get to the big stage, Arizona just can't compete. The Pac-12 Championship Game was a complete nightmare, with Oregon finally getting redemption from the past two games. Then a few weeks later Arizona, gets drowned out in the first half in the Fiesta Bowl.
The expectation for this season should still be an 8-4 record at the bare minimum, but with Stanford finally getting things together and Utah rising in the Pac-12, those are two games that will be much more difficult than we once thought heading into the season.
Arizona can beat the teams they're expected to beat, and we saw that last year as well. But when it comes time to playing the giants of the Pac-12, or even coming up with tougher non-conference schedules, I'm not so sure Arizona is ready to compete. The talent level just doesn't seem to be at that level.
Rich Rodriguez is still working with some of his original recruiting classes, which wasn't loaded with big time talent. Whereas the UCLA's and USC's of the world have been landing 4 and 5-star guys for quite some time. Stars don't mean everything when it comes to recruiting, but the beginning talent level certainly makes a difference.
Arizona did beat Oregon in back-to-back seasons, but Rich Rodriguez has said that the match up plays in Arizona's favor, virtually seeing an Oregon style offense in practice everyday. As for the USC win back in 2012, that was just a big time upset for the program.
The big names that Rich Rodriguez has landed haven't quite panned out yet. But with Rich Rodriguez' latest recruiting class, once those guys start to take shape, that's when Arizona begins its true elevation as a program.