The Arizona Wildcats are 1-4 overall and 0-3 in the Pac-12, which is not completely unexpected. They have been underdogs four times … and lost four times.
That changes this week.
Arizona is favored by a couple of points on the road at Oregon State, which has an 0-4 record that includes a loss to lower-division Sacramento State. The Beavers, like the Cats, have played well in stretches, but not nearly for close to 60 minutes of a game.
Arizona coach Mike Stoops notes his team has to “pretty much run the table” to win the South Division, which is true, except for the “pretty much” part.
Arizona State, at 2-0 in the conference and without Stanford on the schedule, is close to running away with this thing. A win this week at Utah — which is without starting quarterback Jordan Wynn — would make it tough for anyone to catch the Devils (unless you believe in a miracle revitalization from UCLA or Arizona).
Back in the preseason, I figured Arizona would be 1-4 right now, but saw a 5-2 finish. I’m sticking with that 6-6 prediction, although the defense is making me far more queasy than expected.
The problem is a couple of the remaining swing games — at Washington and at Arizona State — have become taller mountains. If UA can’t scale those, it has to be perfect in winning the games it can/should win.
Let’s take a look at the rest of the schedule:
@ Oregon State, Saturday
Arizona might be happy to avoid seeing quarterback Ryan Katz again; he passed for 393 yards in a 29-27 win over the Wildcats in Tucson last week.
Redshirt freshman Sean Mannion beat out Katz early in the season, last week completing 40 of 64 passes for 341 yards and a touchdown. He was intercepted four times. Mannion is a big kid (6-5, 218) with a big arm, but facing a still-raw rookie has to be a relief for the Wildcats.
In the past four games, Arizona, according to NFLDraftScout.com, has faced the top NFL prospect (Stanford’s Andrew Luck), the nation’s No. 2 quarterback prospect (USC’s Matt Barkley), the No. 6 quarterback prospect (Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden) and a read-option master in Oregon’s Darron Thomas.
Stoops is only 2-5 against the Beavers, although the teams have a history of close games in his tenure. Five of the seven have been decided by a touchdown or less.
The preseason call: Arizona’s winning chance: 60 percent.
The new call: Arizona’s winning chance: 67 percent.
UCLA, Oct. 20
Nothing at the quarterback position is ever set for UCLA, but the Bruins have (mostly) settled on Richard Brehaut, who is providing mistake-free play while the passing game takes baby steps in the Pistol offense.
Brehaut isn’t much of a running threat in this offense — which is a quality UCLA wants to eventually develop. For now, the offense is chugging along behind running backs Johnathan Franklin and Derrick Coleman.
The Bruins secondary is beat up right now because of injuries, but could be whole by the time this Thursday night game rolls around.
I thought the defense would have more bite than it has shown. Defensive end Datone Jones, coming back from a foot injury that cost him the 2010 season, has been largely invisible, and UCLA has only three sacks through five games.
Sounds like a big game for Nick Foles.
The preseason call: Arizona’s winning chance: 75 percent.
The new call: Arizona’s winning chance: 75 percent.
@ Washington, Oct. 29
Sophomore Keith Price is the best young quarterback in the league, which isn’t saying much, considering most every team is using a veteran … but you get the point.
Price is far more advanced at this stage than Jake Locker was for the Huskies. Check out Price’s stats: 97 of 142 for 1,209 yards, with 17 touchdowns and four interceptions. He’s second in the Pac-12 in passing efficiency with a rating of 173.7.
Running back Chris Polk is well on his way to his third consecutive 1,000-yard season.
There’s hope that Arizona might wriggle out of Seattle with a win in this sandwich game — the Huskies play at Stanford the week before and are at Oregon a week later — but the quarterback situation improves Washington’s chances.
The preseason call: Arizona’s winning chance: 50 percent.
The new call: Arizona’s winning chance: 33 percent.
Utah, Nov. 5
Utah likely will have quarterback Jordan Wynn back from an injury to his non-throwing shoulder, but who knows? He will be re-evaluated after being out two to three weeks.
That figures to be a big loss to the Utes, who are 0-2 in their new conference and face three difficult games in a row — vs. Arizona State, at Pittsburgh and at Cal — before getting Oregon State at home.
By the time the Utes (2-2) hit Tucson, they might be lucky to be .500.
The preseason call: Arizona’s winning chance: 60 percent.
The new call: 67 percent.
@ Colorado, Nov. 12
The location makes this tricky, especially this late in the season (brrrr), but the Buffs still have a long way to go on the field.
They are especially young right now at cornerback, with true freshman Greg Henderson in the starting lineup and a pair of other “newcomers” in the rotation — converted senior running back Brian Lockridge and converted senior receiver Jason Espinoza.
Colorado’s offense is one of the weakest in the league, although senior receiver Paul Richardson probably will be have something like 300 yards against the Wildcats.
The preseason call: Arizona’s winning chance: 65 percent.
The new call: 65 percent.
@ ASU, Nov. 19
ASU has done a remarkable job of carrying on through injuries, especially on defense and now on the offensive line, too. The key part is quarterback Brock Osweiler, who has had some shaky moments — three interceptions last week — but has otherwise been the leader and playmaker ASU needed.
That’s the thing. ASU has playmakers on both sides of the ball.
Running back Cameron Marshall is bowling over defenders, receiver/returner Jamal Miles is scoring every which way, linebacker Vontaze Burfict is still Vontaze Burfict … and the Devils defense is playing in attack mode.
The preseason call: Arizona’s winning chance: 45 percent.
The new call: 25 percent.
Louisiana-Lafayette, Nov. 26
Depending on how the previous six games have gone, this could be Stoops’ swan song … or Arizona could already have an interim head coach … or the Cats could need this for a bowl game.
Whatever … Arizona should win.
The preseason call: Arizona’s winning chance: 95 percent.
The new call: 95 percent.