After more than eight months of votes of confidence, sudden firings, allegations, coaching changes, tweets, media access complaints, Heisman hype trains, stadium upgrades, and whatever else happened in Tucson there is finally actual football on the horizon.
And where there is actual football, there are three keys to a team winning said football game.
The Arizona Wildcats return to the field Saturday night against the BYU Cougars for the first time since that Glendale offensive debacle. It’s fair to say Arizona is a completely different team, meanwhile BYU is still trotting out Tanner Mangum decades after his college debut.
So how will the new look Wildcats start the Kevin Sumlin era off on the right foot? Here are three things they’ll need to do:
1. Follow My Lead
First off, in honor of this year’s Pride of Arizona main show, the three keys theme this year will be Justin Timberlake...because of course.
Arizona’s offensive line is certainly the biggest question mark heading into this season, and it will have two big tests without Layth Friekh. BYU presents a challenge because it’s a bunch of grown men going against a bunch of guys that haven’t really spent any real game time together as an o-line. Also, whoever plays center...will they be able to actually snap the ball and then block afterwards?
If Khalil Tate has any semblance of a pocket and J.J. Taylor can have some holes opened up for him, Arizona should be able to move the ball the way it did in October last year. If they don’t have that....well, it could be a repeat of 2016.
2. Dead and Gone
I turned my head to the east, I don’t see nobody by my side
Song lyrics or what players were saying when looking at ZonaZoo the last two years?
It’s time to put the post-Fiesta Bowl years far in the rear view mirror and only look forward. There have been many changes to Arizona Stadium to improve the in-person experience, the new coaching staff and emergence of Khalil Tate has brought a new energy to the program, and a favorable schedule amidst a Pac-12 South full of turmoil has a second division championship looking like a strong possibility.
I imagine that the team will come out with an energy not seen in a few years, and will use it as a launching pad for a new era in Arizona Stadium. Come out flat? Then it’s more of what the end of 2017 looked like.
3. Loose Ends
The one thing I’m most curious to see is the potential improvement on the ends of the defense, most specifically the corners. Arizona DBs have been known to play receivers loose off the line, so will they tighten up and play more press coverage or still have those ten-yard gaps? Will the corners actually be able to cover their guys this year? Who will come up with the big plays?
If BYU pulls off some big passing plays coupled with possession receptions, the Wildcats could be in trouble. The corners’ improvement will help showcase what is now a talented group of sophomores up the middle of the UA defense.