clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Pre-fall camp Arizona football record predictions

New, comments
pac-12-college-football-offense-ranking-units-2019-preview Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats begin fall practice Friday as they embark on their second season under head coach Kevin Sumlin.

UA went a disappointing 5-7 last year. Will 2019 bring better results? Here is what our staff thinks. Note that we will have another set of predictions once fall camp concludes and we learn a little bit more about the team.

Brian J. Pedersen — 6-6 (3-6)

  • at Hawaii — W
  • vs. NAU — W
  • vs. Texas Tech — W
  • vs. UCLA — W
  • at Colorado — L
  • vs. Washington — L
  • at USC — L
  • at Stanford — L
  • vs. Oregon State — W
  • at Oregon — L
  • vs. Utah — L
  • at Arizona State — W

Anything can happen when you go to Hawaii, even more so when it’s the first game in nine months, but Arizona should be able to sneak back to the mainland with a win. That would set the stage for a 4-0 start including a win over UCLA, leading to overinflated expectations.

Then the bottom drops out starting with a trip to Colorado, where the Wildcats haven’t lost since 2011 but they will this time to start a four-game skip that only ends with a Homecoming victory over lowly Oregon State.

That’s the only game Arizona will be favored in during the second half of the season, and it will again come down to the ASU rivalry to determine if a bowl game happens. Winning in Tempe hasn’t happened since 2011, in case you’re sensing a theme.

Scott Moran — 6-6 (3-6)

  • at Hawaii — W
  • vs. NAU — W
  • vs. Texas Tech — W
  • vs. UCLA — W
  • at Colorado — W
  • vs. Washington — L
  • at USC — L
  • at Stanford — L
  • vs. Oregon State — W
  • at Oregon — L
  • vs. Utah — L
  • at Arizona State — L

My predictions are pretty chalky, and if there’s anything I’ve learned in my experience with UA, it’s that wacky things, both good and bad, will happen. Last season was one of the most erratic seasons I can remember for any team, and it ended in a disappointing and frustrating 5-7 record. I’m gonna be right down the middle and say 6-6 sounds right to me.

My main concern is that the team went 2-4 in one-possession games last year, and it felt more like bad decisions than bad luck. Overall though, the team returns just enough for me to feel comfortable and doesn’t have to face coaching staff turnover this year, so I see meek improvement. The Hawaii game should actually be close and I’m already practicing my “the sky is falling” routine for August 24, but I expect a W. NAU needs no explanation. I’m excited about the Texas Tech game for many reasons, and one of them is that I expect a win by 10-ish points.

In conference play, I expect two wins to start the year 5-0 and 2-0 in conference. UCLA will be pretty good sooner rather than later with Chip Kelly, but I can’t say the same for Mel Tucker’s Colorado team. Give two more narrow wins to UA. I’d say it’s likely the ‘Cats go 1-3 against UW, USC, Stanford, and Oregon, but I’ve already given this team some serious credit with early close games, so we’ll say 0-4. OSU is an easy win, Utah is an easy loss, and I can’t pull the trigger on beating ASU in Tempe after last year’s collapse.

Overall 6-6 and a bowl would make me impatient with Sumlin but not ready to put him on the hot seat. Sumlin will have most of the team back in 2020, save for Tate and a few starting members of the back seven. If he can improve that year too with a new QB, I’ll be willing to back him. But we’ll have to wait and see. And hey, a miracle 15-0 season isn’t technically impossible.

Gabe Encinas — 5-7 (2-7)

  • at Hawaii — W
  • vs. NAU — W
  • vs. Texas Tech — W
  • vs. UCLA — L
  • at Colorado — W
  • vs. Washington — L
  • at USC — L
  • at Stanford — L
  • vs. Oregon State — W
  • at Oregon — L
  • vs. Utah — L
  • at Arizona State — L

I think Arizona misses bowl eligibility for the second consecutive season. Arizona’s strength of schedule is 15th in the nation and the back half is loaded with superior talent.

I’m fine with non-conference, however I would not be stunned if Arizona comes out with a loss to either Hawaii or Texas Tech, but for now I think they’ll finish 3-0.

UCLA is a trendy pick as a win, as many view it as a toss up, and I see both sides. Arizona gets a bye week before the Bruins head to Tucson. And while Chip Kelley is being labeled as a fraud, UCLA returns 19 starters from 2018, the most in the nation (Hawaii is third with 18). Right now I don’t have enough trust in Sumlin to say Arizona win. There’s a great chance,

Colorado should not draw much concern, especially with a new staff. Coming out with four wins out of the first five is a win. The trouble starts after Colorado.

For reasons between size and talent, I can’t see Arizona even sniffing an upset against Washington, even though I believe they are going to be underwhelming this year. USC is in the same boat as UCLA. Clay Helton is likely in his last year, but he has supreme talent and size and gets the benefit of a home game. It’s entirely possible Arizona sneaks out with a win but for now I can’t get myself to say Arizona will win that game.

Arizona better trample Oregon State.

At Oregon will be a tough game and I can’t imagine Arizona is competitive in that game. I think Oregon is a tad overrated this season as well, but this game could get ugly.

Utah struggled against Rich Rodriguez for whatever reason and Utah loses a lot of bonehead games in November, but the development and coaching done by Kyle Whittingham is phenomenal.

I think Herm Edwards has done a tremendous job in Tempe, and heading on the road is tough for me to peg another win here. Again, certainly winnable, anything can happen in these games, but that’s tough.

So here we have three games, UCLA, USC and ASU, that could go either way. Right now I don’t feel comfortable picking any individual game as a win, but I think they can potentially win one of those three to get to bowl eligibility.

Arizona is going to have to have a lot of things go right all season long if they want seven regular season wins.

Christian Mortensen — 7-5 (4-5)

  • at Hawaii — W
  • vs. NAU — W
  • vs. Texas Tech — W
  • vs. UCLA — W
  • at Colorado — W
  • vs. Washington — L
  • at USC — L
  • at Stanford — L
  • vs. Oregon State — W
  • at Oregon — L
  • vs. Utah — L
  • at Arizona State — W

When I took a deeper look at Arizona’s schedule, I was surprised to see only three games on there that I was anywhere close to certain the Wildcats would win: against NAU, Texas Tech and Oregon State at home.

Maybe it was the bad taste of last year’s disappointment or the simple fact that the UA has to play one of the toughest schedules in the nation this season, but when going through their opponents week by week, it was hard for me to find the confidence to tab the Wildcats for anything more than six or seven wins in 2019.

It makes sense to think that they will be better in Sumlin’s second year at the helm, as he’ll be working with his first true recruiting class and the guys still around from the Rich Rod Era will now have been in his system for over a year and a half. But even with all of that being said, it’s still hard to see the Wildcats beating any of the best teams in the Pac-12 this fall.

Road games against strong USC, Stanford and Oregon teams all figure to be losses, as do home tilts against conference favorites Washington and Utah. That’s five L’s right there already.

The Hawaii, UCLA, Colorado and ASU games can all go either way, but there is no good reason why the Wildcats can’t be 3-0 going into their first two conference matchups of the year— first against the Bruins at home and then against the Buffs in Boulder.

In my mind, those two weeks will be season defining.

Win those two games against UCLA and Colorado and the Wildcats have a realistic shot at being bowl eligible come the end of the year. Split and they probably have to win at least one game they shouldn’t to be anything better than .500. Lose both and Sumlin’s seat will begin to feel a little bit warm after two consecutive losing seasons to begin his time in Tucson.

I’m an optimist by nature, so I’ll give the Cats those two wins against UCLA and Colorado and I’ll go even further out on a limb and say that they’re able to avenge last season’s collapse against ASU and get the marque victory of Sumlin’s tenure so far, with a win in Tempe to finish the year at 7-5.

To me, everything hinges on the play of Khalil and his relationship with offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone. If the coaching staff can get their star QB to look anything like 2017 Khalil Tate, my 7-5 prediction could end up looking very smart.

But if he looks more like the 2018 version than the phenom we saw in 2017, well, it wouldn’t be the first time Arizona football has let me down.

Brandon Combs - 8-4 (5-4)

  • at Hawaii — W
  • vs. NAU — W
  • vs. Texas Tech — W
  • vs. UCLA — W
  • at Colorado — W
  • vs. Washington — L
  • at USC — W
  • at Stanford — L
  • vs. Oregon State — W
  • at Oregon — L
  • vs. Utah — L
  • at Arizona State — W

No doubt this is a tough schedule, but I do see some winnable games. You are probably thinking I’m crazy at this point but let’s take a look.

Hawaii, Oregon State, and NAU are pretty self-explanatory. I don’t believe Texas Tech will be completely cohesive as an offensive unit three games into the season, on the road, and against a Power Five opponent. Let’s also not forget, their defense is...not good.

After the Red Raiders come to town, Arizona gets a bye week before playing UCLA at home. It’s at this point you are probably wondering what I’m thinking. Last year, Arizona lost by one point, on the road, with their second string quarterback. This season is different. The game is Tucson, and couple that with a healthy Khalil Tate, there should be little doubt whether Arizona wins.

The second game you are probably wondering about is the USC game. For the past two years Arizona has been on the cusp of defeating the Trojans, only to come up short. Last year was probably worse than 2017, as there were a few missed opportunities that would’ve catapulted UA past USC. Even though the game this year will be on the road, it just feels that everything will come together and Arizona will get it done.

Arizona doesn’t do particularly well against Washington or Stanford, so I don’t see them winning either game. Though the last time Arizona played the Huskies they came back from behind and took the game into overtime.

Utah is interesting. The ‘Cats always play Utah well at home, whereas they don’t do so well in Salt Lake City. This is a game I believe UA could win, but I just think Utah’s experienced and deep defense will be a little too much.

Oregon is another interesting game. Everyone should remember the beatdown Arizona gave to the cocky and confident Ducks when they came to Tucson. No one gave Arizona a chance. Arizona, for some reason, seems to get super hyped every time they play Oregon, sometimes to their detriment as they can get into their own heads. Last year saw that same type of hype, but it seemed more like focus than uncontrolled emotions. I’ll be interested to see how this year plays out as I think Oregon is a winnable game, but unfortunately for UA, it’ll be in Eugene. That’s why I have the Ducks winning here.

That leaves us with the T-Cup. I don’t think Arizona has forgotten what happened in 2018 and I believe that’ll carry them to victory in Tempe. They will be determined to obtain the Territorial Cup and bring it back to Tucson. Throw in that I’m 0% confident ASU will get their QB situation figured out, much less have them play effectively throughout the year. ASU’s defensive line has also taken a hit major hit with transfers and players graduating. One thing’s for certain though, like always, the Territorial Cup will be interesting to watch.

I believe the team will take a step forward this season. But as always the case in college football, we’ll have to see how the season plays out as injuries, mishandling of game situations, and other things factor into everything.

Ronnie Stoffle — 7-5 (5-4)

  • at Hawaii — W
  • vs. NAU — W
  • vs. Texas Tech — L
  • vs. UCLA — W
  • at Colorado — W
  • vs. Washington — L
  • at USC — W
  • at Stanford — L
  • vs. Oregon State — W
  • at Oregon — L
  • vs. Utah — W
  • at Arizona State — L

This is always one of most favorite exercises of the football season. As a homer, I could be talked into a 9-3 regular season. As a fan whose feelings are still hurt from last season, I could be talked in a 4-8 regular season. As an attempt at a realist, 7-5 makes a lot of sense.

UA’s non-conference schedule will be a good test with its most challenging matchup waiting in week three. This effectively gives the Wildcats two games in three weeks to tune up for Texas Tech. This will be the first non-conference game in the regular season against a Power-5 opponent since Oklahoma State in 2012. I think this game will have plenty of scoring like that one did but I don’t think the outcome will be in favor of UA.

Aside from Oregon State later in the year, their first two conference games are by far the second and third easiest of conference play. I absolutely expect them to win both which brings their record to 4-1 (2-0). I have to assume Washington is a loss despite their “Desert Dog” nickname.

The following week at USC is a win for me. The biggest reason being because it’s Tate’s senior season and he’ll want nothing more than to finally take down the Trojans, the team that wouldn’t offer him a scholarship as a quarterback.

From there, I have the Wildcats going 1-2 over the next three weeks with their only win against Oregon State at home and two road losses against Stanford and Oregon.

Call me crazy, but mark my words, Utah will lose to Arizona on Senior Night in Tucson. We’ve seen it before Utah as a top-10 team. Plus, I just always have such a hard time buying into the Utes. As a friend says, “they always do just enough to be considered a good team but they never get over the hump to be considered a great team.”

Lastly, the Territorial Cup. It’s always a toss up and no one ever knows who is going to win. So why not put a reverse jinx on it? I have the Wildcats losing this game but they’ll be heading to a bowl game.

Jason Bartel — 6-6 (4-5)

  • at Hawaii — W
  • vs. NAU — W
  • vs. Texas Tech — L
  • vs. UCLA — L
  • at Colorado — W
  • vs. Washington — L
  • at USC — L
  • at Stanford — L
  • vs. Oregon State — W
  • at Oregon — W
  • vs. Utah — W
  • at Arizona State — L

I kind of like my new position in life where I feel like I don’t know very much about Arizona football at the end of July and can look at a schedule and say to myself “hmm, I have no idea how good either of those teams are, let me put an L there”.

Most of this is just based on the history of Arizona football honestly. 6-6 and under .500 in Pac-12 play is kind of par for the course, and losing to a probably-not-awful team from Texas in non-conference play is just too easy to pick.

As for the Pac-12 schedule, I feel like it’s going to be more of the same. Colorado wins are always a likelihood, losing to UCLA, USC, and Stanford is easy, and a stunning upset win at home late in the year against a team like Utah is always a good time. And since I have that getting the Wildcats bowl-eligible, Herm will find some way to make Sumlin look silly to end the regular season.

After being extremely hyped before last year with a new coaching staff and a new energy around the program, I don’t feel any of those things this year. If they’re good, cool. If not, well, that’s just Arizona football, right?

Ryan Kelapire — 5-7 (2-7)

  • at Hawaii — W
  • vs. NAU — W
  • vs. Texas Tech — W
  • vs. UCLA — L
  • at Colorado — L
  • vs. Washington — L
  • at USC — L
  • at Stanford — L
  • vs. Oregon State — W
  • at Oregon — L
  • vs. Utah — W
  • at Arizona State — L

Arizona has to go 3-0 in non-conference play to have any shot at a bowl game. The start of the conference schedule is brutal, and you’re looking at a possible 2-6 start if the Wildcats lose to Texas Tech (or Hawaii, but that seems unlikely).

In the end, I think this season will be very similar to last—Arizona will play some impressive stretches of football, followed by stretches that make you scratch your head.

The Wildcats almost always win a game that they probably shouldn’t, which is why I have them beating Utah in their penultimate game.

Yes, I have UA losing to ASU, but that’s always a toss-up. Win that one and it’s back to a bowl game.