I guess we should take Rich Rodriguez at his word.
The first-year Arizona Wildcats coach hasn’t been working up a sweat touting his team — either for this year or next. He’s slow-playing the expectations.
Just a coaching strategy? Maybe. Realistic? Yeah, we’re going with that option.
Rodriguez will hand out tepid compliments like this:
“What I think I have is a bunch of pretty good guys who work pretty hard. … I think the guys are hungry to prove themselves. I think we have some talent. I don’t think we are just going to show up and beat anybody on our schedule. But I do think the guys are hungry.”
Even such cautious statements like that, though, are often furthered tempered by comments about merely average intensity at practice, or how improvements still need to be made with conditioning, or how the team lacks depth.
No, I don’t think this will be a “shock-the-world” season for Arizona.
It could be entertaining enough, given quarterback Matt Scott and other good pieces in Rodriguez’s no-huddle offense. And maybe that’s good enough for the first year.
For sure, it’s going to be fascinating.
How is the no-huddle offense going to look? How does that 3-3-5 blitz-from-all-angles defense work? Have the players really bought in?
Given that RichRod has been hush-hush about many personnel issues, there is more mystery than usual just in terms of seeing who ends up where and for how long.
We’ll begin to find out some answers Saturday night against Toledo at Arizona Stadium.
But let’s turn to the final chapter.
I see a 5-7 season for the Wildcats.
There is one “lock” on the Arizona schedule: South Carolina State on Sept. 15.
The Cats are favored against the Rockets by about 10 points, so that should be win (but, by no means a gimme and a loss should not be considered a stunner). Still, for prediction purposes you have to put that in the win column.
OK, that’s two.
Arizona then would have to find three victories in conference play to get to 5-7. The most likely games would be against Oregon State, Colorado and Arizona State, all at home. It’s hard to see Arizona favored in any other game.
Injuries could change the odds. A road game at UCLA is certainly winnable.
What’s left are games against teams in the Top 25 (or close enough): Oklahoma State, at Oregon, at Stanford, Washington, USC, at Utah.
Seven victories means winning everything that is winnable, and taking a game from that last column. OK, it could happen. Anything beyond that, and you’re living in a world with purple unicorns.
There is just too much that is new and too little depth.
If everything goes well — mainly, that means Scott staying healthy for 12 games — I could see Arizona going 6-6. But when was the last time everything went well?
Rodriguez hasn’t been over-promising. Progress will be measured in playing fast, playing hard. By next season, his schemes should be nicely entrenched … but, of course, he’ll have to start over at quarterback.
So, hey, 2014 could be looking mighty good …