The Arizona Wildcats and Hawaii Warriors kicked off the season in style Saturday, with a gut-wrenching shootout that ended with a tough 45-38 loss for the ‘Cats. There were a lot of bad signs for Arizona, and it’s hard not to come away from the game with a pessimistic outlook.
What will happen in Arizona’s 11 remaining regular season games if this trend continues?
Even if Arizona had beaten Hawaii, most people would probably agree that it would have gone about 1-4 in the following five games: vs. Washington, at USC, at Stanford, at Oregon, vs. Utah. Washington, Oregon, and Utah are probably most people’s vote for the three best teams in the conference, and while two of them come to Tucson, it’s hard to project a victory after last night.
Stanford and USC are hardly unbeatable, but they do have a talent advantage and both games are on the road. I probably would’ve picked Arizona to go 2-3 at best in these games, and now I’m thinking 1-4 would be a blessing.
There’s four or five losses in addition to the loss Arizona has already accrued vs. Hawaii. That means Arizona has to go 5-1 or 6-0 in the remaining six games. How likely is that?
No matter how bad Arizona looked at times in Honolulu, it seems safe to assume that UA will defeat NAU next week. Ditto for the Oregon State game in early November. Maybe. That leaves four toss-up games.
First up is September 14 when Texas Tech in Tucson. This game is probably a true toss-up in my opinion, and while Tech might have the talent advantage, Arizona Stadium is still a moderately tough place to play. After a bye, UCLA will come to town, the Bruins are facing a similar type of season, with a young team hoping for second-year improvement. But they also haven’t lost to Hawaii yet, so this is maybe a 40 percent win probability game for now.
Two last road tossups on the schedule: at Colorado and at Arizona State. Colorado is facing a serious rebuild in Mel Tucker’s first season in charge, and this is a case where Arizona will benefit from playing the Buffaloes early in the season. Either team could win this game in Boulder, but I’m gonna lean Arizona as of now. That leaves the Territorial Cup on November 30. ASU is replacing some key contributors this year, but after watching last year’s matchup, it’s hard for UA to seem like favorites against ASU. Combine that with the game being in Tempe, and this game feels like maybe a 1 in 3 chance that Arizona wins.
Add those totals up, and the prognosis is not good. Let’s say Arizona gets the two likely wins, goes 2-2 in the true tossups, and goes 1-4 against the class of the Pac-12. That would result in a 5-7 finish yet again, and honestly, that’s a touch on the optimistic side. If Arizona enters the Territorial Cup 5-6 and loses for the second time in Sumlin’s two years, he will be firmly on the hot seat entering 2020.
Of course, assuming the same results, this same schedule would’ve finished in a 6-6 record and a bowl had Arizona done one of hundreds of things differently last night. We’ll see if the ‘Cats can turn this around and reach .500 anyway, but lots will have to change.