Rich Rodriguez was hired to bring some new life to a sputtering Arizona program via his high octane spread offense. Fans are excited and expectations are high as Rodriguez gears up for his first season at Arizona.
Take a look at five bold predictions Arizona and Pac-12 fans can expect during Rich Rod's first year.
When Rich Rodriguez accepted the Arizona job, everyone in the country expected him to turn up the tempo on offense in Tucson and mold the Wildcats into Oregon south. However, Rodriguez brought a secret weapon with him: defensive Coordinator Jeff Casteel from West Virginia.
Casteel helped engineer the West Virginia defense into one of the better units in college football thanks to his 3-3-5 system. Arizona is lacking on Casteel’s side of the ball, but there is a superstar safety in state that can help turn things around.
According to nearly every scouting service, Priest Willis is one of the top recruits in the country and the number one recruit in the state of Arizona. The 3-3-5 puts an emphasis on physical but quick defensive backs that not only can cover, but come up and stop the run.
At 6’2 and 190 pounds, Willis would be the blue chip defensive player Casteel can develop his defense around.
Like him or not Michigan fans, but Rich Rod is an offensive mastermind, and he is one guy opposing Pac-12 coaches are not looking forward to game planning against. However, even an offensive mind of Rodriguez’s caliber needs a little luck to get the job done.
Senior Matt Scott, who was beaten out by Nick Foles two years ago, decided to accept a red shirt last season in order to provide Mike Stoops with a succession plan at quarterback. While Stoops was fired, things could not have turned out better for Scott or Rodriguez.
Scott is an athletic quarterback who can get the ball down field but also run the spread option attack. Pair him up with emerging running back Ka’Deem Carey and a very solid receiving core led by senior Dan Bucker, and Rodriguez has the ingredients to unleash a formidable offense on the Pac-12 in his first year at the helm.
Anyone familiar with Rich Rod’s offense knows that running the ball is vitally important to the success of the team. Names like Pat White, Steve Slaton, Noel Devine, and Denard Robinson come to mind immediately when thinking of Rodriguez’s offense.
Carey is primed to be next on the list of game breaking rushers. As a true freshman, Carey finished second on the team in rushing last year (425) and first in rushing touchdowns (six). However, his performance in big games against Oregon, USC and Arizona State have Wildcats fans excited for his future.
Not only is he a threat in the running and passing games, but on kick returns as well. The speedy Carey set a school record against Oregon with 197 kickoff return yards.
Expect to see Carey getting plenty of touches in Rodriguez’s offense and to see his name on the all Pac-12 team by seasons end.
The last time Arizona traveled to Palo Alto was 2010. Arizona was 7-1 and ranked in the top 25, but Stephan Taylor scored late in the fourth to seal the win 33-24 and it has been all downhill in Tucson since.
However, this is a trap game for Stanford, as Arizona is sandwiched between trips to Washington and Notre Dame. The game in Seattle is a must win in order for Stanford to keep pace with Oregon in the Pac-12 North. Meanwhile, Arizona has nothing to lose and should be sizeable underdogs.
Arizona will throw the entire playbook at the Stanford defense and Matt Scott will deliver. Scott will lead a 4th quarter drive and toss the go-ahead touchdown pass, giving Casteel and the Arizona defense the lead late in the game and hold on to win 31-27.
This heated rivalry game could have major bowl implications for both teams. Rich Rod will host the Sun Devils in his first Territorial Cup game, with a win sending the Wildcats bowling in year one.
Everyone knows when it comes to rivalry games, you can throw the rest of the season out the window and expect the unexpected. Senior night in Tucson will be quite special for all involved, but the Arizona seniors will find a way to win.
Casteel has his defense dialed up and on the ball for all four quarters, and it is redemption time for the defense. The offense has been carrying the load all season, but the defense led by Marquise Flowers and Tra’mayne Bondurant wreak havoc on the ASU offense, forcing three turnovers which lead to John Bonano’s game-winning field goal to send the Wildcats bowling.