The 2020 college football season will look much different for the Arizona Wildcats, if there is a season at all. In its best effort to mitigate the coronavirus and still play football, Pac-12 teams are going with a 10-game, conference-only schedule this year.
That means Arizona dropped Hawaii, Portland State and Texas Tech from its slate, while adding Cal as its 10th conference opponent.
How will the Wildcats handle that? Here are our early record predictions. Tell us in the comment section how wrong we are.
Brian J. Pedersen — 3-7
Arizona hasn’t had a winning record in Pac-12 play since 2017, going 6-12 in league games under Kevin Sumlin. Had the Wildcats been playing with the schedule it was originally given, four wins might seem more doable based on the games’ order and location, but as it stands now this team is going to need to be very prepared for the start.
Hosting ASU right at the outset is such a gut punch—moving it to the Oct. 17 bye, or even Dec. 12 would be a godsend—as the Sun Devils figure to come into the game with much more confidence since much of their team played together a year ago. A win in that game would set a great tone, but more likely than not the Wildcats will drop a fourth straight against their rivals and then carry that disappointment through the rest of the season.
The second home game, Oct. 10 vs. Colorado, is no doubt Arizona’s best chance at a win, though somewhere along the line another will happen. Winning at UCLA seems doable, considering the Bruins appear even more disjointed than the Wildcats, and while Cal is a program on the rise the UA just has their number and that could go the UA’s way.
Adam Green — 3-7
Now that the updated schedule has been released it makes total sense to try and predict how many games each team will win. That’s what we do, right?
Unfortunately, there’s no way to know if the entire schedule will even get played, which makes this an exercise in...optimism?
Assuming the Cats get through all 10 games, which admittedly I don’t see happening, it is difficult to imagine them reaching .500. They should be able to knock off Colorado in Tucson, which gives them one win. They may be able to defeat Cal in the Old Pueblo, too. Unfortunately their games against Stanford, Oregon State and UCLA — all teams Arizona can compete with — are on the road, so asking for more than one win in that group is probably a stretch.
Will the 2020 Wildcats be an improved team over the 2019 version? I think so, but the updated schedule did them no favors so it may not show up in their record.
I’ll put them them at 3-7.
Ronnie Stoffle — 3-7
It’s still difficult for me to believe the season will be completed. However, assuming it is, I’m not sure it changes things too much.
Obviously Arizona is losing a sure-fire tuneup game in Portland State. Avoiding Todd Graham/Hawaii and the trip to Lubbock are probably blessings.
So where does that leave Arizona? It leaves them with a 10th conference game and no live-game action before entering conference play. The thing is, this is the same hand dealt to all Pac-12 teams.
Stewart Mandel of The Athletic provided his record predictions for the conference. He had the Wildcats listed dead last at 0-10. You read this right, he predicted them to go winless. There was no substance behind this prediction but said, “the best-case scenario for Kevin Sumlin’s third season is that it gets canceled altogether.”
It’s hard to imagine Arizona going winless but they probably won’t be that much better.
The fact that Colorado visits Tucson gives me hope that they’ll at least be favored in one game. Moreover, the offense isn’t 0-10 bad. Grant Gunnell is a competent quarterback with plenty of potential. He has a strong running game and receivers who should take a step forward.
The issue will be the same as it has been since 2015, the defense. I agree with those who believe Paul Rhoads and his newly formed coaching staff is a boost for the team. The problem is it’ll be tough to grade his first year because of the lack of depth at linebacker and safety.
I put the ceiling on this team at three wins. I do believe they’ll beat Colorado and they’ll stumble into one or two additional wins simply because the offense will power them to it. This is also on par with my expectation from the original conference schedule.
Gabe Encinas — 1-9
Personally I think it’s a long shot that this season even happens, and even if we do go through with it there will be two weeks of games at most.
But for the sake of conversation, the only win I see is against Colorado. Arizona really needed a full offseason with the new defensive staff, and most definitely needed non-conference play to get some momentum building.
Rivalry games can be a toss up but I just think there is a lot more talent in Tempe than in Tucson, although the winner could be whoever gets the most out of their summer camp.
Oregon State is certainly beatable, but having to go up to Corvallis might be too tall of a task to overcome. Unfortunately I think Cal might be a little overwhelming as they’ve steadily gotten better over the years.
The only program that might be more dysfunctional is UCLA. There’s a chance at a win there but having to go on the road might give the Bruins the slight edge. But that late in the season anything could happen.
It’s hard to imagine this team winning more than two games. Perhaps they grind out a win against Oregon State, Cal or UCLA, but it’s just so hard to gauge where any team is right now. I just don’t think Arizona is at a spot where you can give them the benefit of the doubt in what could be “toss up” games.
I think Gunnell elevates the offense, but the defensive coaches just didn’t get enough time with their guys and have had two of the top three defensive players leave the program.
Brandon Combs — 4-6
This is an interesting season, no doubt. Because of that there is a lot of unknowns when it comes to this year’s team.
That being said, I believe Grant Gunnell will be able to run this offense to the full potential and keep the team going. That’s not where the question mark is, no. That’s on the defensive side of the ball.
COVID has really put a major wrench into new defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads and his ability to implement his new defensive scheme. Throw in an entirely new defensive staff and you have a whole lot of unknowns.
That being said, I still believe the defense will be a lot better than the last....few years.
As for the schedule, I believe Arizona will win four to five games. Because of the unknown that is the defense, I’m officially going with four.
The wins I see are ASU, Colorado, Oregon State, and UCLA. The toss-up game will be California. Arizona has had a lot of recent success against the Golden Bears so it’ll be interesting to see how this year plays out against them.
The rest of the schedule is going to be tough, plain and simple. However, I wouldn’t even be surprised if Arizona does manage to get a win in a game that is unexpected because Pac-12.
Ryan Kelapire — 3-7
I hope I am wrong, but I don’t think there will be a 2020 season. If there is, a lot of weird things will happen, like reschedulings and star players unexpectedly missing games due to the coronavirus.
This could work for, or against, Arizona. It could be a benefit because it could give them a chance to win games that they otherwise wouldn’t. Such as if, say, USC quarterback Kedon Slovis tests positive for coronavirus on game day and the Trojans have to use their backup QB. Plus, road games aren’t nearly as menacing without home crowds.
Then again, Arizona is breaking in a whole new defensive staff, so it will not have any continuity to fall back on. Not only will the unit have to learn new plays and schemes, but it could be forced to rotate a ton of players depending how the coronavirus spreads throughout the season. Arizona doesn’t have much depth.
All in all, I see three games that are very winnable—at home vs. Colorado and on the road at Oregon State and UCLA. There are also some games that I don’t think Arizona would be favored in, but could win anyway if they catch a break or two, such as the tilts vs. Cal and at Stanford.
Throw in all the weird things that are bound to happen during the season, and I see Arizona escaping with three victories, thanks to Gunnell and an offense that could be quite explosive.