After what seemed like forever—but was really only about nine months—college football is back in Tucson! The Arizona Wildcats open the 2023 season at home against NAU, an in-state rival who pulled a massive upset in their last meeting two years ago.
Who will win this time around? Here’s what our staff thinks.
Kim Doss — Arizona wins 45-21
Before the shocking loss in 2021, Arizona had scored at least 62 points in its last three wins in this series. Prior to those three games, the winning score for the Wildcats was typically in the 30s and 40s. There had only been one game between the two where Arizona broke the 50-point barrier and that was in 1945. The current Arizona offense may be better than most of those teams, but it’s still the first game. There will still be kinks to work out on both ends of the field.
Ezra Amacher — Arizona wins 49-20
Arizona’s offense will quickly overwhelm NAU and the Wildcats will keep pouring it on. Expect the game to feel fast paced. The game clock will continue to run even after a first down, a new rule instituted by the NCAA this season. That should cut down the number of plays a bit and might mean less scoring than we’d otherwise see in such a blowout.
Brandon Combs — Arizona wins 56-20
The offense should have no problems with NAU’s defense to be honest. I’m more interested with the defense’s performance. Last time out against the Lumberjacks did not go well....as I’m sure everyone is aware. If the defense is improved and is able to make stops as much as I think they will, then Arizona will have no problems. This is not the same team from 2021. It is quite different in fact, and I believe we’ll see that on Saturday.
Adam Green — Arizona wins 48-13
It’s the dumbest revenge game in program history and at the very least it represents an opportunity for a revamped Arizona to truly show how far it has come. Beating NAU would not mean the Cats are good or destined for a bowl game, but crushing them would at least validate those who believe the team’s talent level is greatly improved and ready to compete with the conference’s best.
It will happen. Arizona’s offense will pick up where it left off last season, ideally with a dominant run game, and the additional athleticism on the defense will show itself with some big plays, like sacks, turnovers and runs stuffed for no gain or even negative yardage.
Devin Homer — Arizona wins 45-21
With an improved defense on paper, this will be the first time they will be able to show it on the field. Arizona will look to score at any opportunity presented to them and the offense should put points on the board fast and early. The biggest key to this game will be the defense and how improved the unit looks.
Brian J. Pedersen — Arizona wins 51-24
The NAU team that beat Arizona two years ago wasn’t particularly good, but it didn’t need to be because of how bad the Wildcats were. The UA has gotten so much better since then and now is in a position to be able to thump these kind of opponents, and they’ll want to maximize every opportunity to put points on the board.
Arizona hasn’t topped the 50-point mark since beating NAU 65-41 in 2019, but barring a really sloppy performance that milestone will be reached.