In college football, much like life, looks can be deceiving.
Thanks in large part to Rich Rodriguez University of Arizona football is no longer simply a big mirage in southern Arizona. Coming off a double-digit win season, Pac-12 South Championship and trip to the Fiesta Bowl the Wildcats seem to look the part heading into the fall with the return of quarterback Anu Solomon, running back Nick Wilson and wide receiver Kayleb Jones.
However one insider believes, despite the returning skill talent, the Wildcats will likely take a step back in the standings in 2015 simply because of a couple of factors they can’t control.
“Factor in the schedule, it is difficult,” long-time publisher and college football analyst Phil Steele told Sports360AZ.com’s Brad Cesmat in a recent phone interview. “They play five Pac-12 road games this year. Trips to Arizona State, USC, Stanford among [them]. With that type of schedule I actually picked them tied for fourth in the Pac-12 South this year.”
Another pitfall could be no bye week for the ‘Cats. It’s something which could impact injuries and the mental grind of the long season.
Defensively, UA must replace a trio of talented safeties but will benefit from the return of All-American junior linebacker Scooby Wright who burst on the scene as a sophomore registering one of the most prolific and dominating defensive seasons in conference history. The reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year will be the focal point of defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel’s defense.
“I don’t think there was an award where Scooby Wright’s name didn’t come up,” Steele told Cesmat. “He is one of the most dynamic playmakers out there.”
Through the good, bad and unknown the Wildcats have always understood the bigger picture under their current coaching staff.
Coach Rod is fully aware and realistic of potential hurdles this year.
“Our league is so good,” he recently told Sports360AZ.com. “We could be better and it may not show in our record. The Pac-12 is better than it’s ever been…so we have to do our job.”
A challenge Rodriguez and his staff have thrived under since arriving in Tucson.