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2018

Arizona

College Football

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Even though it lost four of its final five games, Arizona still reached seven wins and almost took down Purdue in a bowl game. That’s a good season, but more is expected with new head coach Kevin Sumlin, who comes over from Texas A&M. Throw in the electric Khalil Tate and the Wildcats have a real chance at the Pac-12 South as USC is expected to take a step back. That said, their over/under at 5Dimes Sportsbook places them with 7.5 wins, barely above last year’s total. 

The route for Arizona’s success is through one player and that’s quarterback Khalil Tate. He didn’t start the first four games of the year, but turned in a highlight on almost every play as he averaged 10.2 yards per carry to go with 8.43 yards per pass attempt. Those numbers are off the charts and that’s why he had the sixth-best odds in the spring to win the Heisman at +1600. Under Sumlin, there’s no reason to expect less from Tate and there were reports out of the spring that his accuracy has improved. The line returns only two starters, but that’s not a major issue due to Tate’s mobility. Running back is set with last year’s leader J.J. Taylor (828 yards, 5 TDs) and Nathan Tilford. It’s the same situation at receiver where all the top guys return in Shun Brown (39 receptions, 511 yards, 5 TDs) and Tony Ellison (496 yards). There’s a decent chance this offense scores more than 40 points per game again as long as Tate stays healthy.

Defense was always a problem under Rich Rodriguez and that has to change in Marcel Yates’s third season as coordinator. To help, Yates and Sumlin are familiar with each other, formerly serving as co-coordinators at Texas A&M. If the Wildcats don’t improve on this side of the ball, it’d be a surprise due to nine starters returning and five of those being sophomores. Sumlin shored up the middle of the line with some big bodies and JUCO transfers to help stop the run, while linebacker is filled with playmakers. Tony Fields and Colin Schooler are each set to have around 100 tackles again, while leading sacker Kylan Wilborn is another guy that can improve in his second year. Throw in a secondary that has experience with seniors Jace Whittaker and Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles and there’s no reason this group can’t improve on the 34.4 points per game allowed.

Arizona’s over/under is sitting just above seven wins and it’d be a disappointment if this team finished with the same record. The trip to Houston may be difficult, but Tate didn’t play in the 19-16 loss last year. If they can get three non-conference wins, five Pac-12 wins are on the table again. The Pac-12 South is filled with mediocre teams, which makes the dynamic Tate the most important player when deciding between teams. Arizona doesn’t get Stanford or Washington from the North and hosts USC and Arizona State. If Tate can make it through the entire season, the Wildcats should be headed for at least eight wins simply because he can gash almost every defense in the conference. Throw in a better defense and Arizona will have a chance at the title game.

 

2018 Arizona Wildcats Football Schedule

Sept. 1 vs. BYU

Sept. 8 at Houston

Sept. 15 vs. Southern Utah

Sept. 22 at Oregon State

Sept. 29 vs. USC

Oct. 6 vs. California

Oct. 12 at Utah

Oct. 20 at UCLA

Oct. 27 vs. Oregon

Nov. 2 vs. Colorado

Nov. 17 at Washington State

Nov. 24 vs. Arizona State

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