Arizona coach Mike Stoops, not even 30 seconds into his first weekly news conference of the season, said, “We’re tired of talking about it; we’re ready to go out and see what we’ve got.”
Amen to that.
If he’s tired of talking about it, I’m tired of writing about it after covering all of camp and posting 23 Wildcats-related stories in the past 23 hours.
There is only one thing left in our 24 Hours of Football Blogging series:
The season prediction.
From the beginning of camp until now, I might be slightly more optimistic about the Wildcats’ chances, and would be more so if not for the late-camp ACL tear of cornerback Jonathan McKnight. Will that injury cost a victory at some point in the season?
Arizona held two public scrimmages, neither of which was particularly instructive; these things are always vanilla. There were some visible tweaks, though, which you should see soon, perhaps Saturday night in the opener against NAU.
We saw some Pistol-style offense — with a running back behind the quarterback in the shotgun formation, and it looks as if first year full-time defensive coordinator Tim Kish will be more aggressive along the defensive front this season.
Some of those strategic modifications add to the unpredictability of an Arizona season that I consider already hard to predict. Anything from four to eight wins in the regular season wouldn’t surprise me. As Stoops says, this team is an odd mix of veterans and youngsters. The presence of the veterans tells me eight victories. The youth suggests four is closer to the mark.
Split the difference?
Let’s take Arizona’s three toughest games — Oklahoma State, Stanford, Oregon — and just give the Cats a loss. Let’s give UA wins for the bottom two — NAU and Louisiana-Lafayette.
That leaves seven games up for grabs.
Arizona isn’t good enough to run away and hide from Pac-12 teams. Neither is Arizona so outclassed that Pac-12 teams can face-plant the Cats into the turf.
The Wildcats played five conference games last season that were decided by eight points or less. Toss-ups, basically. They played seven league games in 2009 that were decided by eight points or less.
They are 6-6 in those close games. Win some, lose some. What do you expect?
If Arizona wins four of its seven conference “toss-up” games against teams not named Stanford and Oregon, it would be doing pretty well this season. And that would mean a six-win season.
It’s enticing to bet on a little bit more because of the prolific passing game, but it’s not wise to do so because of the inexperience on the offensive line. Arizona’s dispersal of experienced talent among its position groups just isn’t quite in sync.
The future looks bright beyond 2011 because the offensive and defensive lines project to grow up together and be something fierce, and Arizona has a quarterback succession plan with (perhaps) Matt Scott in 2012, and Tom Savage in 2012 and 2013. There appear to be no long-term issues in the secondary, at receiver or at running back.
But for now … let’s call this a 6-6 season.
Anybody up for a trip to New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque?
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the 24th installment of our 24 Hours of Arizona Football Blogging. Miss anything? Check out the entire series with the “24 hours of blogging” tag.