The long college football offseason will come to an end for Toledo and Arizona on Saturday night. The game features an improved mid-major team in the Rockets trying to upset a Wildcats squad with more talent, but also more question marks.
Toledo got off to a slow start last season before finishing with eight wins in its last nine games, including a bowl victory over Air Force. The success was mostly due to a high-powered offense that reached 60 points twice.
Arizona will need to successfully replace quarterback Nick Foles, who has moved on and had some nice success during the NFL preseason. Matt Scott will get the first crack to lock down the job and must prove he can lead a dangerous offensive attack.
Here's all the key information for Saturday night's game followed by a preview of the clash that will set the tone for the season.
Where: Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Ariz.
When: Saturday, Sept. 1 at 10:30 p.m. ET
Watch: ESPNU and ESPN3.com
Listen: 1370 WSPD AM (Toledo) or KCUB 1290 AM (Arizona)
Betting Line: Arizona -10.5 (Vegas Insider)
Injury Report (via USA Today)
Toledo: No injuries reported
Arizona: Kirifi Taula (questionable, undisclosed), Dan Pettinato (questionable, leg) and Jonathan McKnight (probable, shoulder)
Key Storyline: Are the Wildcats on upset alert?
Although the Wildcats are a double-digit favorite according to the oddsmakers, it's actually a pretty small margin when you look at some of the other lines in the opening week. Toledo isn't a total pushover and is going to put up a fight.
If Arizona doesn't take control of the game early and allows Toledo to keep it close heading into halftime, the chances of an upset will rise considerably. So the pressure is on Scott to have a strong start to build an early lead.
All told, the Wildcats should win, but it's far from a guarantee. They can't afford a lackluster performance.
Top 25 Implications
Right now, neither team is on the Top 25 radar, and unless Toledo goes on an extended winning streak to begin the season, that's likely to remain the case for the Rockets. They don't have a ranked team on their schedule all season.
Arizona faces a much tougher road, but it does at least give the Wildcats a chance to crack the rankings if they can win the marquee games. That starts next week against Oklahoma State, but they have to remain focused on Toledo.
What They Are Saying
New Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez is saying all the right things and has plenty of support as he looks to build the program, according to John Marshall of the Associated Press:
''Always the honeymoon stage is good because you haven't lost a game and all that, but the people have been really receptive and excited, generally accepting, not just to me, but to all the new coaches and all the new guys down there,'' Rodriguez said. ''We've got a lot of work to do, but it's made it very easy to get comfortable here and to get settled in.''
Toledo Player To Watch: Bernard Reedy
With Eric Page gone, Reedy assumes top wide receiver duties for the Rockets. He only caught 40 passes last season, but they went for 758 yards (19 yards per catch) and nine touchdowns. He should see more targets in 2012.
In order to pull off the upset, Reedy must find holes in the Arizona secondary and exploit them for game-changing plays. The Rockets should want to turn this game into a wide-open shootout to keep the pressure on Arizona's passing game.
Reedy certainly possesses the type of big-play ability to cause major problems for the Wildcats, so it will be interesting to see if he can capitalize on it.
Arizona Player To Watch: Ka'Deem Carey
Carey takes over as Arizona's lead running back after an impressive freshman campaign that saw him gain more than 600 offensive yards and score eight touchdowns. He's a versatile back that should ensure the Wildcats have a balanced attack.
He's in for a heavy workload on Saturday if the game goes as Arizona is hoping. Knowing how potent the Toledo offense can be, look for the Wildcats to embark on as many long drives as possible to use the clock while still putting up points.
If there's one player Wildcat fans should be really excited to see develop, it's Carey. He has the potential to become a legitimate star.
Key Matchup: Toledo defensive line vs. Arizona offensive line
Even though both teams are capable of putting up big offensive numbers, which will put the spotlight on the playmakers, the game will ultimately be won in the trenches. The Arizona offensive line must keep a clean pocket and open running lanes.
It's an experienced group led by seniors Kyle Quinn and Trace Biskin. The bigger the edge they can gain over Toledo's defensive line, the easier it will be for Arizona to execute its game plan and start the Rich Rodriguez era with a victory.
The score may remain too close for comfort in the early going, but the Wildcats should eventually pull away.
Arizona 38, Toledo 24