The Arizona Wildcats need a win Saturday to avoid their first 0-2 start since 1981.
In their way stand the Houston Cougars, who are coming off a season-opening win against Rice. Houston opened as a four-point favorite against visiting Wildcats.
Will the Wildcats turn their season around and pick up their first win? Or will the Cougars take care of business? Here is what we think will happen. Make sure to leave your predictions in the comment section below.
Christopher Boan — Houston wins 42-28
There are so many reasons why I believe that the unstoppable force that is Ed Oliver will somehow single-handedly manhandle the Wildcats’ ramshackle offensive line. There’s also the fact that D’Eriq King might be the most underrated QB in the nation, coming off a smoking hot debut against Rice last week, throwing for 320 yards and three touchdowns.
Those aspects, plus Noel Mazzone’s inability to let Khalil Tate do what he does best (IE, not chucking the ball 34 times per game), lead me to believe the Cougs will win this one comfortably. It’ll be an awkward week in Tucson leading up to the gimme game against Southern Utah, as there’s going to be plenty of finger-pointing going on in the Old Pueblo.
Brian Pedersen — Houston wins 35-24
I had Arizona losing this game before the season, mostly because of the expectation that the inexperienced offensive line wouldn’t be able to keep Ed Oliver off Khalil Tate. That still applies but my prediction is now based just as much on Houston’s potent offense and the likelihood it’s going to torch the Wildcat D.
The complete lack of a pass rush against BYU is a bad sign since Houston’s attack is far more explosive, and its ability to score quickly makes it very possible the Cougars will jump out to a lead early and force Arizona to play catchup. That means scrapping any plans—there are plans, right?!?!?!—of having Tate run more in favor of the same kind of downfield passing from last week.
Arizona starts 0-2 for the first time since 1981.
Gabe Encinas — Houston wins 27-23
Wow this is tough. And seeing two Houston predictions above me is hard to swallow.
No, I’m not just totally jumping off the ship after Week 1, but I am a lot more worried than I originally was. I never felt like 0-2 start was out of the realm of possibilities — it was my worst nightmare — but here we are.
The offensive line wasn’t as terrible as I would have expected — they obviously gave Tate enough time to throw those deep balls — but this is Ed Oliver going up against four new starters that includes a new center, a left guard who has never played guard and a true freshman left tackle.
But I’m interested to see how much the coaching staff actually changes after just one week. They did a terrible job of putting their best guys in position to make plays.
Two designed runs for Khalil Tate, constant deep balls, crafty running backs going between the tackles, not much activity in the passing game for running backs, no tight ends, no quick tempo throws to get the offense in rhythm and let the athletes work after the catch.
It’s up to the staff to make those adjustments and tailor the play-calling to their players’ best traits. If they use Tate more in the running game, it opens everything up and that’s what we need to see on Saturday.
Arizona’s defense was unimpressive for returning so many starters and bringing so much size in year three.
I will always give Arizona defenses a little more slack because of the nature of the offense, and when your drives are a minute in real time the fatigue really sets in.
Add that to the fact that the defense couldn’t generate any pressure, sacks or turnovers and it looks like a defense worse than last year.
Zant Reyez — Houston wins 35-28
I should probably stick to writing about softball and non-revenue sports after how off I was last week, but here I am again.
28 points for the ‘Cats seems a little high because I think Ed Oliver is going to laugh at the O-line as he beats them snap after snap. I’m optimistic the O-line will improve, but when the potential No. 1 pick in the NF Draft is lining up on the other side of the ball, I’m just hoping the line can stand its ground more times than not.
This week I don’t see Khalil Tate chuckling the ball deep as much as he did last week because I don’t think he will have enough time to sit in the pocket with Oliver coming at him. I see a lot of screens and quick passes for UA. Oh, and hopefully a lot of letting Tate keep the ball in his hands and letting him do what he does best.
I’m not going to be too hard on the defense because I thought the secondary and linebackers played decent. The D-line, however, is another story. I thought the D-line would be somewhat improved since more weight was added to it, but it appears teams will still be able to run up the middle with ease.
Starting the season 0-2 would make AD Dave Heeke sweat a little extra, but I hope fans keep the faith.
Alec Sills-Trausch — Houston wins 24-18
Ohhh boy. Here we go. (Side note: if you continue reading, you won’t learn much. It’s just me rambling on. Good luck.) To me, I view this game as a straight coin flip. I have no idea if Arizona will figure things out on offense. I have no idea if Ed Oliver will literally be the only person to come out on defense and still wreck our offensive line. I really don’t know. What I do know is the team looked embarrassingly flat last week in a game and atmosphere which should have allowed for neither. It’s quite disappointing when you have as talented a player in Tate and you do not know what to do with him.
So, until Arizona gets a win, I won’t expect a win. Seems like sound logic, right? Anyways, Cougars hold at home.
Jason Bartel — Houston wins 31-17
I have always thought that Houston would win this game and I have had no reason to come off that.
When going up against one of the premier defensive lines in the game, your weakness can’t be your offensive line. Unfortunately, that is Arizona’s weakness.
I think a lot of things are working against the Wildcats in this one and they just won’t be able to overcome the early start and get their first win of the Kevin Sumlin era while visiting his old school.
Rob Leano — Houston Wins 35-24
Everyone above me has some shared thoughts to my own. I’ve had thought it would have been a close game even with the hype before week 1. Now, the ball leans towards Houston’s favor. Prove me wrong, Arizona. Show us that Week 1 was a fluke and that we really should buy in.
Ryan Kelapire — Houston wins 31-24
As much as I’d like to go against the grain and pick Arizona in this game, I just can’t do it. There are just too many things working against them.
Here are just some of them:
- Ed Oliver against UA’s shaky offense line
- The early kickoff time
- The hot, humid weather vs. Arizona’s lack of depth
- A promising Houston passing game vs. Arizona’s non-existent pass rush
- Houston’s home-field advantage
- Arizona using Khalil Tate as a pocket-passer
The only way Arizona wins this game is if Tate has one of those signature games where he is consistently breaking off big gains on the ground and through the air. Unfortunately, he has not had one of those games since the USC or Oregon State game last year, and the setting just doesn’t seem right for one to happen in Houston.