The Arizona Wildcats generated buzz around the country when they finished the 2009 season with an 8-4 record and claimed second place in the Pac-10.
Unfortunately, they created a lot of buzz during the offseason as well, as defensive coordinator Mark Stoops left for Florida State and offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes took the head coaching position at Louisiana Tech. Not to mention the little fiasco some might remember towards the end of the season known as the Holiday Bowl.
The good news for Coach Stoops and his team, however, is the excitement from last season has carried over to the spring. Coach Stoops and his new coordinators, Tim Kish and Greg Brown on defense and Bill Bedenbaugh and Seth Littrel on offense, are preparing for spring practice and the 2010 season.
The 2010 season has potential to be a special one for the 'Cats, as they return an offense deep in talent, especially at the wide receiver and running back positions. The defense is young, and quick, and filled with players looking to make an impact.
The Wildcats also have the benefit of a home heavy schedule this year, playing five Pac-10 games at Arizona Stadium. The Wildcats will by no means have an easy schedule, however, as it features several trap games and games against heavy juggernauts.
Here's a look at the 2010 schedule from easiest to hardest:
Sept. 11 vs. The Citadel
The Wildcats will face off in their home opener against the military college from South Carolina.
The Bulldogs feature senior Quarterback Bart Blanchard, who passed for 12 touchdowns in eight games last season before an injury ended his campaign.
The Citadel went 4-7 last year with convincing wins coming against Princeton and Presbyterian College.
They don't call them warm-up games just because they are played at the end of summer, however. The mixture of the atmosphere for the first home game of the season and the overwhelming difference in talent should allow for the 'Cats to roll the 'Dogs.
Oct. 16 at Washington State
Washington State has made significant strides since Paul Wulff took the head coach job in 2008. Unfortunately, Wulff is 3-22 so far in his tenure, and that includes two beatdowns from the U of A in Pullman and in Tucson.
Sophomore Jeff Tuel is the quarterback of the future for the Cougars, but he is going to take quite a few licks in his career.
Washington loses four offensive lineman from a squad that allowed the second most sacks in the nation.
Unfortunately for Paul Wulff, his defense isn't much better than his offense. The Wildcats high-powered offense should make the Cougars look silly again in 2010, regardless of game location.
Sept. 3 at Toledo
The Toledo Rockets started off the 2009 season with a bang, notching four wins in their first seven tries. The momentum fizzled in the second half of the season, though, due to quarterback issues and a ghastly defense, and the Rockets dropped four of their last five.
Wide Receiver Eric Page will be the play maker for Toledo this season, as he looks to build on a 1159 yard freshman season.
The Wildcats will be shaking off the offseason rust in Toledo and the game will be nationally televised on ESPN. That mixture might cause some problems for the Wildcats and this game has the potential to become a trap game, but the Wildcats should be more than prepared for this one.
Oct. 23 vs. Washington
Jake Locker would more than likely have been a top-10 pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. He turned down millions of dollars and maybe even a chance to stay in Seattle and play for Pete Carroll, to attempt to lead the Huskies to a more than mediocre season.
Steve Sarkisian has the Dawg fans pumped about whats going on in Seattle, as he brought the Huskies back to the middle of the Pac-10 with a 5-7 overall record. This record included a controversial last second win over Arizona that may have cost the 'Cats a Rose Bowl berth.
The Wildcats will be looking for revenge in Tucson this year and plan to take it out on a Huskie defense that replaces five starters. By the way, this one is being played on homecoming...the script for revenge could not be better written.
Oct. 30 at UCLA
The Bruins have dropped three in a row against the Wildcats now. Head Coach Rick Neuheisal is attempting to raise UCLA from the Pac-10 cellar and his flotation devices come in the form of young talented football recruits.
Neuheisal's 2009 and 2010 recruiting classes are some of the most talented in the country, but whether or not they will make an impact in 2010 is feasible at best.
The quarterback issue still remains a mystery for UCLA and the hearts of the defense, Kyle Bosworth and Brian Price, will be playing for NFL teams next season.
The only variable in this game could be the fact that its on the road, but Neuheisal should need another season or two before the Bruins can compete for the upper tier of the Pac-10.
Nov. 6 at Stanford
This game probably has the most potential to be a trap game for the Wildcats. They play the Cardinals away the week before they have to play USC at home. If the Cats get caught looking ahead they could be in for a long Saturday evening.
Coach Jim Harbaugh rebuffed several bigger offers to continue coaching at Stanford in 2010. Stanford's leading rusher, Toby Gerhart, left for the NFL though, and to say he was the heart and soul of the Stanford team in 2009 would be an understatement.
Quarterback Andrew Luck and wide receivers Chris Owusu and Ryan Whalen will attempt to make up for the lost production of Gerhart, but no one would blame them if they fall short.
Dec. 2 vs. Arizona State
The battle for the Territorial Cup has been won by the Wildcats two seasons in a row now.
Arizona State head coach Dennis Erickson finds himself on the hot seat after back-to-back losing seasons.
Erickson hopes he has found his quarterback in Michigan transfer Steven Threet, but he's still looking for offensive lineman to protect him. Arizona State is losing three offensive lineman from the second worst unit in the Pac-10 last season.
The Sun Devil defense should be strong despite losing six starters and Erickson will rely on the young unit to carry his team until the offense can work out the kinks.
The rivalry game is always a trap game, regardless of location or talent, so both teams should play this one hard, whether they're 0-11 or 11-0.
Oct. 2 vs. California
The Golden Bears were another victim of the NFL this offseason. Leading rusher Jahvid Best departed for the NFL, leaving Shane Vereen the responsibility to carry the Bears' rushing offense.
Cal pulled off a victory over the Wildcats in 2009, despite Best being sidelined with an injury.
Quarterback Kevin Riley and wide receiver Marvin Jones will put up some big numbers together, and some of the holes on defense should be filled by incoming blue chippers Keenan Allen and Chris Martin.
The Wildcats get to play this one at home this year and the Pac-10 opener will be played during Family Weekend, so a big crowd is expected.
Also, the 'Cats will have two weeks to prepare for the Golden Bears, playing them following a Bye Week. The Wildcats could really set the tone for the 2010 season if they earn a victory in this one.
Oct. 9 vs. Oregon State
Head Coach Mike Riley always manages to field a good team. He brings in recruits that nobody else wants and turns them into solid college football players. Oregon State and Arizona share a lot of common ground in this sense and the past several match-ups have come down to coaching, with Riley usually having the edge.
The Wildcats started to turn the tide last year, squeaking out a victory against the Beavers in Corvallis.
Oregon State returns 16 starters in 2010, including leading rusher Jacquizz Rodgers. The one variable for Oregon State will most likely be the quarterback position, where youth is prevalent.
The good news for Arizona is they get to play this one at home. The bad news is it comes after games against Cal and Iowa. The Wildcats should make it tough on Oregon State, provided they aren't reeling from those two trap games.
Sept. 18 vs. Iowa
Speaking of Iowa, the Wildcats will play the Hawkeyes at home this year. Last year's game in Iowa City marked the proverbial fork for many Wildcats fans with the season's momentum falling the way of the outcome.
The Wildcats played tough, but were unprepared against an Iowa team that eventually went on to win the Orange Bowl.
The game in Tucson this year could have a similar feel to it, as the outcome should set the tone for Pac-10 play for Arizona.
Quarterback Ricky Stanzi is looking to continue his college success while building his NFL resume, and the Hawkeyes only lose seven starters between their offensive and defensive squads. This game has the potential to be a real shootout and the home crowd should be out in force in Tucson.
Nov. 13 vs. USC
Depending on how the first half of the season goes, this game has the potential to move further down on the difficulty meter.
USC brainchild, Pete Carroll, left for the NFL and so did hard-hitting safety Taylor Mays. The Trojans were consumed with offseason turmoil and recruiting class drama. That being said, they're still USC, and freshman phenom Matt Barkley will still be wearing the golden SC on his helmet.
Lane Kiffin rode in on a stolen horse and swiped up a dream recruiting class and will be looking to make Pete Carroll a name of the past.
The Wildcats played the Trojans hard every year even when Coach Carroll roamed the sidelines, and finally got over the hump, winning in 2009. It's hard to believe USC needing a "turnaround" season, but they did not win the Pac-10 last season and they're gonna have to turnaround to win it in 2010.
Nov. 26 at Oregon
Anytime a player glances at the schedule and sees he's playing at Autzen Stadium a little bit of worry creeps in, even if the Ducks aren't expected to win the Pac-10, which, unfortunately, they are.
The Ducks have been rocked by offseason scandals though, and have dismissed several players from the team, including wide receiver Jamere Holland. Even quarterback Jeramiah Masoli hasn't managed to keep his name out of the papers either, but is still expected to be the star of the Ducks come August.
Oregon only has to replace three starters on a team that won the Pac-10 and beat Arizona in Tucson in 2009. Controversy or no controversy the Ducks will be near the top of the Pac-10 in 2010, and the Wildcats will have the opportunity to prove themselves late in the season, in hostile territory, during their toughest game of the season.
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