Some quick hitters before I get into my first UofA football breakdown of 2017:
- Go Ducks tonight! (For what it’s worth, I’m also picking the Penguins to win their Game 7 in Washington).
- Jake Arrieta, the 2015 Cy Young Winner, has a 5.35 ERA in 7 starts thus far this season. It’s a contract year for him and I expect that he’ll command a 5 year, $125 million deal or thereabouts. I advocated on Twitter this offseason that I hoped the Cubs would’ve traded him but to no avail. If I was a GM, there’s no way I’d give Arrieta anywhere near that kind of money as he hasn’t been that sharp for the last year or so. I would be shocked if Theo Epstein and company pays Arrieta that kind of monster contract, especially with the young hitters up for new deals in the coming years. With John Lackey also a free agent in 2017, I’m thinking the Cubs 2018 rotation will look A LOT different than it does today.
- Here are 5 sleepers to win the unofficial 5th major, THE PLAYERS this weekend:
Justin Thomas (30-1), Brooks Koepka (36-1), Paul Casey (48-1), Martin Kaymer (68-1), Matt Kuchar (70-1)
Now let’s talk about my favorite sport, college football, and the team I’ve seen play 115 times in person (yes I’ve counted), the Arizona Wildcats…
Last year’s 3-9 season was painful to say the least…then again, beating ASU 56-35 without attempting a pass in the 2nd half was a sweet way to end an extremely sour season. UofA took eventual Pac-12 Champion and CFB Playoff representative Washington to overtime in September only to fall by a touchdown. Here’s what I expect in 2017:
SAT 9/2, Northern Arizona (home): The last time these two teams met, in 2015, Arizona won 77-13. If you wanted to give me the Lumberjacks +64 this time, I’d bet my house on it. Look for Arizona to play both Brandon Dawkins and Khalil Tate at QB and move the ball with relative success against the undersized ‘Jacks defense. Look for 2015 Big Sky Freshman of the Year, Case Cookus to throw for 300+ yards in a losing effort. Arizona gets at least 400 yards on the ground in a high-scoring victory.
Prediction: Arizona 52-27 (1-0)
SAT 9/9, Houston (home): This game will set the tone for Arizona’s season. The Cougars return 8 offensive starters and former Texas A&M QB, Kyle Allen returns to his home state to lead Houston’s attack. On defense the Cougs lost a lot but have quite possibly the best defensive player in the country in true sophomore DE, Ed Oliver. I’m expecting a fun game but Arizona’s inability to have consistent success throwing the ball downfield will doom them.
Prediction: Houston 34-28 (1-1)
FRI 9/15, UTEP (away): I won’t pretend to know anything about UTEP at this juncture so I’ll skip the analysis. It’s a Friday night road game in the Sun Bowl and despite the short week, I’m predicting a solid bounce back effort from Arizona. JJ Taylor, Nick Wilson, and Nathan Tilford go crazy on the ground.
Prediction: Arizona 44-30 (2-1)
FRI 9/22, Utah (home): Rich Rodriguez had been 4-0 vs. the Utes prior to last year’s drubbing. Utah lost a lot on both sides of the ball and while the crowd at Arizona Stadium won’t top 45,000 for the Pac-12 home opener, I would expect another fine performance from Arizona on offense. The key to this win will be a defense that is coming together nicely (despite being undersized and without a key leader at this point).
Prediction: Arizona 27-20 (3-1)
SAT 10/7, Colorado (away): The Buffaloes pounded Arizona in Tucson last November, 49-24, in what was a dynamic offensive performance for CU on their way to the Pac-12 South title. While they won’t win the division again this year, they’re still a better team than are the Wildcats. I’d be surprised if this game was close. One thing to look for – former MLB top draft pick Donavan Tate plays the 2nd half in his first extended look as Arizona’s QB.
Prediction: Colorado 40, Arizona 23 (3-2)
SAT 10/14, UCLA (home): The last time UCLA came to Tucson, so did ESPN’s College Gameday and this game was the prime-time matchup on ABC. It’s safe to say that won’t be the case this year. Near-cinch NFL 1st round draft pick Josh Rosen should once again carve Arizona’s limited secondary to pieces. Donavan Tate starts for Arizona and performs admirably in a losing effort. In the week after the game, highly touted sophomore QB Khalil Tate announces his intentions to transfer from UofA.
Prediction: UCLA 48-34 (3-3)
SAT 10/21, California (road): On paper this is a winnable game for Arizona. Cal is essentially starting over with coach Justin Wilcox and should have their share of growing pains this season. While the Bears will be favored, I have a sneaky feeling that Arizona’s rushing attack goes off in Berkeley. No “Hill Mary” necessary in this one (one of my favorite Wildcat games I’ve ever seen in person and always will be)…Arizona wins in impressive fashion.
Prediction: Arizona 41-31 (4-3)
SAT 10/28, Washington State (home): This Homecoming matchup looks to be a nightmare for Arizona. Last year, the Cougars scored at-will against a depleted Wildcats defense and there is no reason they shouldn’t do the same in 2017. Luke Falk throws 6 TDs for WSU in a game where the over line is a virtual lock.
Prediction: Washington State 52-34 (4-4)
SAT 11/4, USC (away): Not much to say here…USC should be among the top 5 teams in American and QB Sam Darnold should be in the thick of the Heisman Trophy race.
Prediction: USC 48-7 (4-5)
SAT 11/11, Oregon State (home): A MUST-WIN for Arizona…who looked lost against the Beavers in Corvallis last season. Arizona plays inspired at home and pulls off the closer than expected win led by Donavan Tate’s 200 yards passing and 120 rushing.
Prediction: Arizona 35-30 (5-5)
SAT 11/18, Oregon (away): The good news for Arizona is Marcus Mariota is long gone to the NFL. How will the Willie Taggart coaching experience work at Oregon? Will former UofA commit Braxton Burmeister be starting this game as a true freshman? Either way, how will Arizona slow down Oregon’s rushing attack? A Wildcats win would be a virtual shock to me.
Prediction: Oregon 41-23 (5-6)
SAT 11/25, Arizona State (away): I’ve been to every UofA-ASU game since 2001 and have pretty much seen it all. Both coaches likely will be let go after the season, most certainly whichever one loses this game. RichRod has never beaten ASU in Tempe and heralded 5* transfer QB Blake Barnett will ensure that’s the case again this year. It pains me to make this pick…
Prediction: ASU 44-30 (5-7)
Offseason: After a 5-7 season with a 3-6 Pac-12 record, Rich Rodriguez is relieved of his duties by Athletic Director Dave Heeke. The Wildcats hire another dynamic offensive mind, Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery to try and right the ship. Unfortunately RichRod’s tenure will be marked by poor defense and uninspired recruiting. Arizona football will look a lot different in 2018.