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Arizona football roundtable: On encouraging signs and how the Wildcats will fare in the Pac-12

How do we see this team now after one Pac-12 game?

Washington v Arizona Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

There are no such things as moral victories in the Arizona Wildcats locker room, but their Pac-12 opener against the Washington Huskies has put the doom and gloom talk on mute for at least a week.

So what was the most encouraging part of the performance? And how does that change how we feel about how the team will do in the rest of the Pac-12 schedule? We discuss that in this week’s roundtable. Be sure to let us know your thoughts below!

Jason Bartel: What was the most encouraging takeaway from Saturday’s game?

Gabe Encinas: This team isn’t as bad as people have made it out to be through three weeks. This team seemed to have been completely written off by a lot of people during the middle of the Grambling State game. There are still question marks: you have an inexperienced quarterback who is continuing to learn as we head into Pac-12 play, a diminished backfield, and a defense that still has a lot of question marks as well. I’m not saying Arizona is still in the hunt for the Pac-12 South, but I think this team can still win a couple of Pac-12 games this season and put up a respectable record during a time that was already considered to be a rebuilding year.

Alec Sills-Trausch: Not ceding the game from the onset. RichRod wanted the ball to start the game and wanted to score. They did that. While the rest of the game didn’t go according to plan, when you’re on your “back up” quarterback and fourth string running back and force OT with the ninth-ranked team, I can’t fault them too much. Would a win have been nice? For sure. But the fact they came out with a purpose and fought for 60-plus minutes is all I can really ask for from the current team.

David Potts: The offense’s potential. This season is still in flux - there are virtually no healthy running backs and Anu Solomon’s status is still up in the air - but both J.J. Taylor and Dawkins were extremely impressive. Taylor, in particular, gashed a very good Washington defense, and Dawkins showed that his legs really can open up the offense. With Taylor’s injury, there is no guarantee that Arizona can even limp its way to a bowl game this year, but the offense’s performance on Saturday gives me a lot of confidence for next year.

Brandon Combs: The offense’s ability and the defense’s ability to keep the team in the game. Arizona showed that they have great potential this year against the ninth-ranked team in the nation. The offense is quite impressive when it is clicking and everyone is in sync. Even though the backfield is depleted I think Arizona can still have a potent running game. Dawkins still has some work to do with his reads but he is getting better and better in the passing game each week. The touch he's added to his deep throws is also something that is noticeably better.

The defense is undersized. It doesn't have the talent, etc, etc. It is something that has been said over and over again this year. But you know something, they have actually done their job and kept Arizona in every game...even against an explosive offense full of playmakers (Washington). It is something to keep an eye on as Arizona gets deeper into Pac-12 play.

Ryan Kelapire: As others have mentioned, I think the most encouraging thing is Arizona was a play or two away from beating a top-10 team. Considering the injuries and the lack of talent this team has, the fact they were able to compete with Washington tells you that this could actually be a fairly competitive team in Pac-12 play.

While that doesn’t sound like much, I think many — with myself included — thought after the Grambling State and BYU games that this team would be the victim of lop-sided Pac-12 losses.

While that could still prove to be true we at least know that, if the execution is there, Arizona has the ability to compete, and possibly win, any game it plays.

JB: After that UW game, what conference record do you expect Arizona to finish with?

GE: Tying into my answer above, I think Arizona can win at least three, with a lot of question marks given the volatility in the Pac-12. I’m not expecting much against UCLA. Utah is interesting simply because that is one team that Rich Rodriguez has taken care of in the Pac-12, although the Utes are becoming better and better every year, but always find a way to drop some really bad games. We don’t know much about USC because of their brutal schedule, but this certainly seems to be a down year for the Trojans and I find Clay Helton to be suspect. Another potential top-ten team in Stanford? That gives Rich Rodriguez another shot at his upset and crazier things have happened in college football. But as Arizona hits the backstretch of the season, it gets a lot easier. I think a trip to Pullman can result in a win now, even being that late in the season. Colorado is a wildcard for now, much like Arizona, but being at home certainly helps. Oregon State is a winnable game and despite being 4-0, I still don’t buy into ASU.

AST: I’ll break this up into sections. The two wins I feel most comfortable with are Oregon State and Washington State. I think they beat Utah. The Cats have had their number and will continue to. I also think they’ll beat USC. It’s a home game and while they’re talented, they seem to be discombobulated. Then Arizona plays Colorado and who knows. They shocked the entire state of Oregon last week. It’s a home game so I’ll say it’s a win. So there’s five wins right there. While UCLA doesn’t exactly look sharp, they probably win at the Rose Bowl. They definitely don’t beat Stanford and then it comes to ASU who is averaging more points than Virginia in basketball. But they don’t defend so I have no idea what will happen.

I’ll say 5-4 overall (maybe beat ASU and lose to USC/Utah?)

DP: 3-6. I think UA beats Oregon State, and I think they have a reasonable chance of stealing two other games on the schedule (maybe against Arizona State and USC). But I don't think they can squeeze four more wins out of this season. I hope I'm wrong.

BC: 5-4. I don't think Arizona beats UCLA, especially in Pasadena. Salt Lake City is a tough place to play but Arizona has owned Utah so I think they win. I believe they will win against a not-so-impressive USC team — it's an added plus that the Trojans come to Tucson. Stanford, even though it’s a home game, will beat Arizona. They are too big and physical at the line of scrimmage. Not to mention Heisman hopeful Christian McCaffrey. The Wildcats will beat Wazzu, Oregon State, and ASU. All three teams have some pretty awful defenses. Colorado...that's a wildcard and will say Arizona loses. I will caveat saying that it is highly likely Arizona could win against the so-far-impressive Buffaloes.

RK: 3-6. I have Arizona beating Colorado and ASU at home and then beating Oregon State on the road. The Washington State game is a good opportunity for a win as well, but I don’t think the Wildcats matchup well with the Cougars’ air raid offense. It certainly wasn’t pretty last season.

Meanwhile, I think best-case scenario would be 5-4 with wins over Washington State, ASU, Oregon State, Colorado, and USC. But almost all of those games are toss-ups, and to expect Arizona to win every single one seems to be a little much.

And I don’t think Arizona will beat UCLA, Stanford, or Utah considering two of those games are on the road.