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Predicting Arizona’s record in 2018

It’s time to make some preseason predictions

Oregon State v Arizona Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats begin fall camp Friday, with Sept. 1’s season-opener against the BYU Cougars less than a month away.

As the Wildcats begin prepping for the 2018 campaign, we’ve made our initial predictions as to how the season will shake out. We will revisit — and perhaps revise — these predictions as the season gets closer.

Be sure to leave yours in the comment section below.

Ryan Kelapire — 8-4

  • vs. BYU — W
  • @ Houston — L
  • vs. Southern Utah — W
  • @ Oregon State — W
  • vs. USC — L
  • vs. Cal — W
  • @ Utah — L
  • @ UCLA — L
  • vs. Oregon — W
  • vs. Colorado — W
  • @ Washington State — W
  • vs. Arizona State — W

I think Arizona finishes anywhere from 7-5 to 9-3, with the latter being more likely. The schedule lines up too nicely to finish worse than that, barring an injury to Khalil Tate, which would be completely devastating since Arizona’s backup quarterback will likely be a true freshman.

Not having Washington or Stanford on the schedule is huge.

Gabe Encinas — 9-3

  • vs. BYU — W
  • @ Houston — W
  • vs. Southern Utah — W
  • @ Oregon State — W
  • vs. USC — L
  • vs. Cal — W
  • @ Utah — L
  • @ UCLA — W
  • vs. Oregon — L
  • vs. Colorado — W
  • @ Washington State — W
  • vs. Arizona State — W

A while back I think I predicted 9-3 and I suppose I’ll stick with it. Arizona’s schedule is favorable this season and things line up nicely for a team that brings almost everyone back.

But really there are a lot of question marks. I’m not totally convinced Arizona easily rolls BYU or Houston, and Houston’s Ed Oliver is interesting.

USC has to play at Stanford and at Texas prior to week five, but the talent difference makes it hard to realistically pick Arizona.

I’m also worried about Cal. That’s a quiet team that might get overlooked in the Pac-12 North.

That Friday night game in Salt Lake City terrifies me.

Chip Kelly certainly makes UCLA exciting but they have no solidified quarterback or offensive line in his system, so there’s that.

While I’m not on the Justin Herbert hype train, I still think Oregon will be a solid squad this season, and I can’t say with confidence Arizona wins.

Colorado returns almost no one and Washington State has no one to run the Air Raid right now. I get it’s a rivalry game but ASU has Herm Edwards as its head coach and until he proves he has talent and is a good coach I don’t see ASU winning in Tucson.

Christopher Boan — 10-2

  • vs. BYU — W
  • @ Houston — W
  • vs. Southern Utah — W
  • @ Oregon State — W
  • vs. USC — L
  • vs. Cal — W
  • @ Utah — L
  • @ UCLA — W
  • vs. Oregon — W
  • vs. Colorado — W
  • @ Washington State — W
  • vs. Arizona State — W

First off, let me throw a big, old bag of salt on this prediction when I say that I think Arizona will scrape by Houston, Oregon and Colorado (and frankly, wouldn’t be surprised if they lost any of those games).

It all comes down to how the offensive line, which is a bag of unanswered questions as we enter the season, protects Sir Tate this fall. I expect Arizona to do just barely enough to avoid falling on its face against Wazzu, ASU and BYU, with UCLA being a true toss-up game, depending on how former Arizona commit Devin Modster (or whoever Chip throws back there at quarterback) does against the Wildcats secondary in October. I’d say anything north of eight wins is a solid year one for Kevin Sumlin and his staff, but that getting to the oh, so rare 10-win level would be truly the stuff of legends (and Heismans).

Brian J. Pedersen — 8-4

  • vs. BYU — W
  • @ Houston — L
  • vs. Southern Utah — W
  • @ Oregon State — W
  • vs. USC — L
  • vs. Cal — W
  • @ Utah — W
  • @ UCLA — L
  • vs. Oregon — L
  • vs. Colorado — W
  • @ Washington State — W
  • vs. Arizona State — W

If Ed Oliver had decided to sit out this season to prepare for the the NFL Draft then I’d have Arizona winning its road opener at Houston. The Utah/UCLA back-to-back road games followed by Oregon at home is the toughest stretch and losing two of three in there is probably the best-case scenario, but thankfully there are enough likely wins to make for a solid debut season for Kevin Sumlin.

Zant Reyez — 10-2

  • BYU — W
  • @ Houston — W
  • Southern Utah — W
  • @ Oregon State — W
  • USC — L
  • Cal — W
  • @ Utah — W
  • @ UCLA — L
  • Oregon — W
  • Colorado — W
  • @ Washington State — W
  • Arizona State — W

I will say that I fully expect the Cal game to be close and can easily see Arizona dropping a heart-breaker that night. I think the Utah game will be close, but UA’s track record against the Utes leads me to believe they can steal a win there. The Cats should get off to a nice start and everyone will praise Kevin Sumlin, but the USC through UCLA games are going to be tough for the Cats. The waters might get rocky during that stretch, but I hope fans ride the waters and don’t drop “is it basketball season yet?” tweets during that time, or at any point during the season.

I will consider the season a disappointment if the team fails to make a bowl game. The talent on both sides of the ball should get them there. I know that sounds like I’m setting the bar low considering all the hype, but I’m going to keep my expectations modest.

Brandon Combs — 10-2

  • BYU — W
  • @ Houston — W
  • Southern Utah — W
  • @ Oregon State — W
  • USC — L
  • Cal — W
  • @ Utah — L
  • @ UCLA — W
  • Oregon — W
  • Colorado — W
  • @ Washington State — W
  • Arizona State — W

This will be an interesting season for Arizona. They have a great chance to win the Pac-12 South and they have the talent and the schedule to do so.

I do think that they will lose to USC at home. It will be a lot closer than people might think but I’m just not sure how the ‘Cats will react emotionally from last season’s loss. Arizona’s other loss will come at the hands of Utah. No one can tell me that it is easy to travel to Salt Lake City and play in that compact stadium with a bunch of screaming Ute fans. Utah also has a chance to be sneaky good this year.

Other interesting games are Oregon, Washington State, and Houston. The Ducks will be traveling down to Tucson and UA will be looking for revenge after last season. If the ‘Cats and Khalil Tate have a better game than Justin Herbert, expect Tate’s Heisman campaign to really take off. The ‘Cats haven’t had much success on the Palouse but I believe that changes this season.

The most intriguing game for me is Houston. It’s Sumlin’s old team and the game will be played at 9 a.m. Tucson time. Throw in Ed Oliver for the heck of it and you have a really interesting game. I believe the ‘Cats will pull through, though.

Ronnie Stoffle — 10-2

  • BYU — W
  • @ Houston — W
  • Southern Utah — W
  • @ Oregon State — W
  • USC — L
  • Cal — W
  • @ Utah — W
  • @ UCLA — L
  • Oregon — W
  • Colorado — W
  • @ Washington State — W
  • Arizona State — W

A realistic result for this schedule is 8-4 or 9-3. However, I’m going to take the optimistic route and say 10-2. Hear me out...

Arizona has seven home games and avoids Washington and Stanford. From there, the two toughest contests are against USC and Oregon which are both at home. The non-conference schedule isn’t too challenging. The obvious standout game is week two at Houston but that is a very winnable game.

I have never been a believer in Utah as a real contender in the South and that’s no different this year. There’s no doubt in my mind that had Tate played in last year’s game against the Utes, Arizona would have taken care of business. I suspect the team will have that in mind and leave Salt Lake with the win.

Running the table in the regular season is an unlikely achievement for any team but I could understand the case if Tate stays healthy and the defense improves. Seeing how it takes too much luck with everything going right, I’ll settle for 10-2 with the two losses coming to the Los Angeles schools.

Keep an eye on a potential trap game in Pullman on November 17. The Cougars should be nowhere near as good as last season but if Arizona is sitting at 8-2 and looking ahead to the Territorial Cup game, ya never know.