The Arizona Wildcats take an FBS-worst 14-game skid into Saturday’s home contest against NAU. The FCS Lumberjacks are 0-2, having been outscored 76-23 to this point.
The UA is 15-1 all-time against NAU, its only loss coming in 1932.
This is, by far, Arizona’s most winnable game of the season, so the question isn’t whether the Wildcats will end their losing streak but by how much.
Here’s what our staff thinks:
Gabe Encinas — Arizona wins 31-17
Arizona has to snap the losing streak here, right? I’m interested to see how Will Plummer does. This is the perfect game to get him going and lead the offense before they head into Pac-12 play. Get some confidence going in him and ride it out. If things continue to look ugly, I feel like you have to kick the tires on Jordan McCloud unless there is just clearly something not there.
It is scary to think how close this game could be.
Ezra Amacher — Arizona wins 42-10
Eight FCS programs have upset FBS opponents so far this season, including three from NAU’s conference, the Big Sky. NAU won’t be so fortunate. The Lumberjacks rank 97th among 114 FCS teams in scoring offense (11.5 PPG) and 91st in total defense (470.0 YPG). Their starting quarterback is redshirt freshman Jeff Widener, who is in his third year of college but has no prior experience playing a FBS opponent. NAU won’t score enough points to remain competitive for four quarters.
What I’m most curious to see is whether Arizona’s offense can consistently drive the ball down the field against an NAU defense that has allowed 76 total points in its first two games. If the Wildcats don’t drop at least 40 points Saturday, it’ll be a disappointment for a team that desperately needs to establish some confidence on the offensive side of the ball.
Adam Green — Arizona wins 44-17
If Arizona had gotten to play NAU last season, the losing streak wouldn’t be what it is. That’s not my way of saying Arizona is actually better than their recent history suggests, because they absolutely are not. Just, even on their worst day the Cats are better than NAU.
So while the Wildcats are going to win this game, comfortably, doing so will not be a sign that they’re on the right track or that there are plenty more victories in future.
What it will be a sign of is the talent gap between the schools, which should allow for Arizona’s QBs — starting with Will Plummer — to find open receivers while the RBs find holes to run through. The defense should make some plays, too, with sacks, tackles for loss and at least one turnover.
If nothing else, it will be cathartic.
Brandon Combs — Arizona wins 56-20
Arizona will win this game, and quite honestly, it needs this win. I feel Arizona will come out mad and play mad, but more focused than last week.
It felt that UA was pressing too much during last week that they let the game get away from them. The team is so ready to break the losing streak, that they made too many mistakes against the Aztecs.
This win should allow the team to relax more as the weight of losing 14 games is lifted off their shoulders.
Not saying this will be a program changing win, but it should give Jedd Fisch and Company plenty to build off of and be the first true positive change of direction for the ‘Cats.
Ronnie Stoffle — Arizona wins 45-17
OK, so last week was a disaster. I definitely didn’t expect that type of showing and it was eerily similar to last season’s Washington game that followed the close loss to USC.
The good news is this is the exact tune-up game Arizona fans have been waiting nearly two years for. The losing-streak will absolutely end on Saturday but it’s going to take a lot to break the losing-streak to FBS schools. One step at a time, right?
The change at quarterback comes at a very interesting time because you would think this is a game that would be used as a confidence booster for Gunner Cruz before entering conference play. Not the case. Apparently the coaching staff has seen all it needs to see for now.
Will Plummer will start and get valuable reps ahead of the nine game stretch of Pac-12 opponents. I do expect this to be a blowout early and I’ll be most interested in who comes in once Plummer is pulled for rest.
Brian J. Pedersen — Arizona wins 45-21
Consider NAU to be a nice balm, something that helps take away the sting of those first two losses. The Lumberjacks are paid to be a sacrificial lamb, which they’ve been for the UA 10 times in the past 20 years, and this time is no different.
Look for the Wildcats to be as aggressive as they’ve ever been, both offensively and defensively, because they have to generate as much confidence and happiness from this game as possible considering a trip to Oregon looms next weekend.
Also look for quite a few new players to get on the field. If there’s any game to see if they can play college football at this level, it’s this one.
Ryan Kelapire — Arizona wins 42-17
Arizona will win, obviously, but the manner in which it wins is pretty important too. The Wildcats need to play a well-rounded game and show progress in the areas they struggled last week—tackling, quarterback play, etc.
I’m looking forward to seeing how Plummer fares. This game could earn him another start or open the door for Jordan McCloud to get an opportunity.