Mike Stoops lead Arizona from the depths of the team meltdown that ended the Macovic Era to four bowls in five years, but was done-in by the Wildcats’ crazy schedules in 2010 and 2011. In 2010, the Cats opened with some junk wins over teams like Toledo and the Citadel before a dramatic upset of #9 Iowa that vaulted UA to the top 10 in the AP and gave rise to hopes that Arizona simply couldn’t live up to.

After beating UCLA in October of 2010, the Cats were #13 in the AP, but their schedule for the end of ’10 and the beginning of ’11 was the following palindrome of sadness: @Stanford, USC, @Oregon, ASU, Oklahoma State, Northern Arizona, @Oklahoma State, Stanford, Oregon, @ USC.

Arizona beat only NAU in that stretch and would not beat another FBS opponent until they played UCLA again in October 2011. It had been 355 days. None of those losses (other than a loss @ Oregon State in ’11) was inexcusable, or honestly, even surprising. But taken consecutively, they crushed the morale of the program and ended the Stoops tenure in the desert.

Now Rich Rodriguez takes over a team that finished 110th in total defense last year and once again faces Oklahoma State and Oregon in the first month of the season.


…      …        … Well, the National Optical Astronomy Observatory is at Tuscon’s Kitt Peak. You can see tons of stars there.  On the football field however, there’s not as much to see.

Center Kyle Quinn and Safety Marquis Flowers should be among the best players in the Pac at their positions, but the man every eye in Tuscon will be on (at least until basketball practice starts) will be QB Matt Scott the Senior QB who could never compete with Nick Foles in a traditional offense, but should be perfect for the spread option of Rich Rod.

Scott was highly recruited out of high school, but kept losing out to the man who was just drafted to be Mike Vick’s backup in Philadelphia. Now Foles is gone and Scott has a new coach who values speed over arm strength.  Scott has attempted less than 200 passes over three seasons, but his skill set is exactly in line with past Rodriguez QBs. After three years of seeming out of place, Scott appears to finally be the perfect man for the job. If he succeeds, Arizona’s transition to the Rodriguez era should be very smooth.

ROSTER CHANGES: Arizona returns more than half of their starters from last season, but most of the recognizable names are gone. Foles departed for the NFL, as did star WR Juron Criner. Starting tailback Keola Antolin is also gone, and the defense loses four of it’s top five tacklers including all of its top three.

The good news for the Cats is that they are the only team in the Pac-12 to return its entire starting offensive line and Sophomore tailback Ka’Deem Carey averaged nearly 5 yards per carry last season and could be poised for a huge year in Rich Rod’s system.
Arizona was 2nd to last in the Pac-12 last year with 95 yards per game on the ground. They should improve that number this year in dramatic fashion in spite of losing Antolin.

SCHEDULE: RichRod’s opening tour of the Pac-12 won’t be too easy as the Cats draw both Oregon and Stanford from the North and must face them both on the road. However the Cats have 8 games at Arizona Stadium this season and they get the Territorial Cup game with the Sun Devils at home.

The non-conference schedule does include a visit from Oklahoma State, but Arizona also welcomes Toledo and South Carolina State and all three of those games will take place in September, before the temperature dips below triple digits in Tuscon.

They are bringing in a new QB, new tailback and totally new schemes, but the talent and schedule seem to be there for Rodriguez to lead Arizona back to the post season in his first season in the desert.