The freefall in Tucson continued last season when the Arizona Wildcats won their fewest games in more than a decade. It’s been a drastic decline for a team that won 10 games and played for the Pac-12 championship just three seasons ago. And because of it, Rich Rodriguez is sitting on a seat that’s hotter than the Arizona desert. It shouldn’t take much to get back to being a competitive club. The Wildcats suffered an unreal amount of injuries last season, which played a big part in their three-win total. But the experience gained from that should lead to better things in 2017.
2016 Record: 3-9 SU, 2-10 ATS, 7-5 O/U
2017 Regular Season Win Total: 5
National Championship Odds: +200000
Odds To Win Pac-12: +11000
It wasn’t bad until the injury bug hit. The Wildcats opened with a tough loss to a good BYU club then rolled off wins over Grambling and Hawaii. Of course, they should’ve won those games and they tried to give it away to Grambling before holding on. Arizona hung with Washington in the Pac-12 opener and took the eventual league champs to overtime before losing.
That was the last sniff the Wildcats had at a victory until the final game of the year. Arizona would lose its next seven games with all but one being decided by at least three touchdowns. Over the course of the season they shuffled through four quarterbacks and seven different players had at least 28 rush attempts. It was hard to find any rhythm with the constant cycling of skill-position players.
Rodriguez’s usual fast-paced, high-scoring offense faltered and the Wildcats averaged a Pac-12 worst 24.8 points per game. The defense wasn’t immune either. That grouped lacked talent to compete in a Power 5 and it was gutted on a weekly basis. There was one bright spot and it may have saved RichRod’s job for now. The Wildcats ended the season with a romp over rival Arizona State in the Territorial Cup, amassing nearly 600 yards of offense.
There are plenty of gaps on both sides of the ball after the Wildcats were exploited last season. When the pieces are in place, the offense can be good. With a little fine-tuning, and better health, quarterback Brandon Dawkins is the key to making the group work.
Dawkins is the dual-threat Rodriguez loves having run his offense. He led the team with 944 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns last season, but he has to be more of a threat in the passing game for the offense to make drastic improvements. He completed just 53.8 percent of his 182 passes last year with eight touchdowns and six interceptions. Arizona led the league in rushing with 235 yards per game because they couldn’t throw the ball, and opponents, except for ASU, limited the big plays.
The offense should be better with several backs in the rotation. J.J. Taylor was impressive before going down with an injury. Nick Wilson will also get touches. The quarterback situation and the entire defense carry the weight of the Wildcats’ hopes in 2017, though. Arizona was undersized on the defensive line and the front seven was hit hard with losses. It will take some time for the group to come together and that’s something Rodriguez may not have.
Week 1: Arizona vs. Northern Arizona, Saturday, September 2
Week 2: Arizona vs. Houston, Saturday, September 9
Week 3: Arizona at UTEP, Friday, September 15
Week 4: Arizona vs. Utah, Friday, September 22
Week 5: OFF
Week 6: Arizona at Colorado, Saturday, October 7
Week 7: Arizona vs. UCLA, Saturday, October 14
Week 8: Arizona at California, Saturday, October 21
Week 9: Arizona vs. Washington State, Saturday, October 28
Week 10: Arizona at USC, Saturday, November 4
Week 11: Arizona vs. Oregon State, Saturday, November 11
Week 12: Arizona at Oregon, Saturday, November 18
Week 13: Arizona at Arizona State, Saturday, November 25
|SEC Conference||Big 10 Conference|
|ACC Conference||Big 12 Conference|
|Pac 12 Conference||Big East Conference|
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