We whetted your appetites yesterday with our preview of the upcoming Arizona Football season. When we last left you, Arizona had a legitimate chance at securing a 6-0 record going into the latter half of the season. With non-conference victories over Idaho, Toledo, and New Mexico and conference wins over UCLA, Washington, and Stanford, Arizona was primed to make a Run for the Roses in 2008. So let's pick up where we left off. In the interest in full disclosure, if you did not read Monday's intro, this is a biased accound of the 2008 season from UA fans, written as a "there's a legitimate chance of this happening" not a "this will happen."
Oct. 18 California - Cal is coming off of a 7 - 6 season (after a 5-0 start). The 2007 Bear offense revolved around WRs DeSean Jackson (6 TDs), LaVelle Hawkins (6 TDs), TE Craig Stevens (3 TDs) and RB Justin Forsett (15 TDs). Those 4 guys were 4 of the 5 Top Receivers on the team and 3 of the Top 5 rushers. I can guarantee this offense will struggle without all 4 of those contributors. The top Skill players have left the program and the incumbant QB, Senior Nate Longshore, is penciled in as the teams QB!. This means that there will be room for more Cal speedsters to step up, names to be made, reputations to be established, but 2008 will not be the year for the Cal Bears. While this won't be a walkaway game for Arizona, at home this will be a good way for the Cats to start off the second half.
Arizona 44, California 13
Oct. 25 USC - This will be the game of the week. This will be nationally televised, and if things go as we have mapped them out (UA 7-0) this game will actually be more important in SC than their earlier match-up with The Ohio State University. This should be the toughest test of the season for UA. All signs point to a USC win. Now over the last 3 years the clearly dominant USC teams haven't had a lot of first half success against the Cats (2007: 10-10 at half, 2006: 3-0 at half, 2005: 14-7 at half) but they have managed to pull out wins in all 3 games. With the vastly improved, high powered Arizona Offense will USC be able to run away with the game in the second half as they have done in the past? Onto the other factor. Arizona has done 2 things with consistancy over the 4 year Stoops term in office. Win big games, Pull of a Huge second half upset, and win on Homecoming. The first year it was beating ASU at home to cap off a 3-8 season. Last year it was the Thursday night game of the week against #2 Oregon on November 15. The two years in between, that upset happened on homecoming. (52-14 over #7 undefeated UCLA and 24-20 over #8 one-loss Cal). In fact Arizona is 3-0 against California teams on Homecoming over the last 4 years. With that said, beating USC doesn't seem to promising. There's a very good chance USC will be #1 in the country coming into this game. The matchup to watch this game will be Arizona Offense against he SC Defense. Unfortunately, barring injury, Arizona isn't going to come out on top against the Trojans.
Arizona 31, USC 34
Nov. 8 at Washington State - The Cats will be coming off of a nice restful bye week after a few great weeks of football. The true test of their season will be how they come back from the loss to USC. They will be among the Top 3 teams in the Pac-10 coming into this game in November with 2 of their toughest contests ahead. This game, however, will not be one of those 2 tough contests. WR Brandon Gibson is a threat, but with no 2 in a 1-2 punch Gibson becomes less threatening. As Arizona showed last year it takes a little time to get used to the spread offense, so new Coach Wulff's spread should be more comfortable for the Cougs. But they still don't have the top tier talent to run the spread effectively enough. Also the fact that in Stoops four years the Cats seem to get a step quicker, a touch meaner, and just that much better over the last quarter of the season means this should be a good game for the Cats. As long as they aren't too rusty from the week off and they aren't to focused on the next week in Autzen you can put this one in the Win column for the Cats. The Cougar defense was weak enough as it was last season and they lost key run stuffing DT Ropati Pitoitua. This should be a great game for Tui to work out any kinks in the offense as he picks apart the Cougar defense with a surgeon's precision.
Arizona 52, Washington State 14
Oct. 15 at Oregon - The Ducks will be wanting revenge from last seasons loss in Tucson. This time the tables will be turned. The line for this game will probably read Arizona by 2 1/2. This will be another game that gets the Kitty Kat faithful nervous, especially in Autzen. Though the Oregon offense should be pretty potent, the QB battle between Justin Roper and Nate Costa will have been decided by now. This will be the game where Arizona's offense is at its best. Why? The Oregon front 7, well other than End Nick Reed, is non existant. Arizona's running game will be on and Tui will have plenty of time to pick apart the Oregon defense. Specifically with quick shot passes on short slants. Linebackers will not be able to contain Arizona receivers and TE Rob Gronkowski will have a "Player of the Week" type game. Oregon's rushing offense will be resting on the shoulders of a JC transfer who, though he impressed in spring workouts, A) is not Jonathon Stewart, and 2) did it against the Oregon front 7. Without a valid running game, the Oregon offense will sputter. Arizona should have this game in hand by the end of the 3rd quarter.
Arizona 31, Oregon 17
Oct. 22 Oregon State - The definition of a Trap Game. Arizona will be coming off a big win AT Oregon. Arizona will be 9-1. Arizona will be in BCS talk. Arizona will be facing off against hated rival Arizona State next game in the Territorial Cup. This sparks some concern, especially for a team that isn't too comforatble and used to success. The saving grace might be the coming bye week. Rather than facing ASU in 7 days, it will be 2 weeks. That should make for Arizona being able to foucs on the game at hand. Oregon State surprised Arizona last year with a 31-16 beating no one really expected. Rest assured Oregon State is not the same team as they were in 2007, and 2007 wasn't a banner year (9-4) for the Beavers to begin with. The Beavers have a QB controversy, a new kicker guaranteed to miss 1 30+ yd FG this game, and a completely revamped front 7. The only chance Oregon State has at getting out of Tucson with a Win rests entirely on their secondary. Their Secondary could be one of the best or even the best in the conference, but too many other question marks on both sides of the ball leave Oregon State just short against the Cats.
Arizona 37, Oregon State 17
Dec. 6 Arizona State - The Territorial Cup. By all accounts (or our accounts) Arizona should be 10-1 and looking at a Rose Bowl birth (as long as USC is still in the National Championship picture). Arizona State should be 9-2 or 8-3 coming into Arizona Stadium and looking to play the spoiler. Arizona will be coming off of a bye and ASU will coming off of a game against UCLA. Bottom line, this could be the biggest and best Territorial Cup game ever. This will be the matchup of Rudy Carpenter and Willie Tuitama that was much-ballyhooed in 2005. The home team is 3-1 since Stoops took over in Tucson. Arizona State is going to be in this game wire to wire with Arizona. PK Thomas Weber will score 14 (4 FG, 2XP) points for ASU and the offense will put up 2 scores. Unfortunately for ASU their offense will not be as high powered as their Desert counterparts. The Cats will get out of this one with 4 TDs and a couple of FGs controlling the tempo and the scoring for the game. The Cats will score late to put the game out of reach and win in Tucson in December.
Arizona 34, ASU 26
This may not be exactly how the seasn pans out, but it certainly seems possible. This is the season that The Cats have been on the edge of for 4 years. The signs of brilliance have been there every season, but the Senior leadership was never there. The team was resting on youth which doesn't bode well in big or close games. This year there will be an improved offense with a year of the spread under their belt. This same team will be led by a group of Seniors who have seen the promise and will do everything in their power to achieve that. Last years team had some senior leadership (Cason, Larsen, Fontenot) but they couldn't make up for younger mental mistakes and offensive letdowns. 2008 has potential for Arizona and if this team can continue to protect the ball and score points Arizona will be in a bowl game and the Rose Bowl is in their grasp.