The haboob of summer sports boredom is about to pass.
The 2011 Arizona Wildcats football season is about to begin!
Finally. It hasn’t been easy watching the Pac-12 and the rest of the college football world playing games but the wait is over. The Cats are about to kick off their season.
It was quite the controversial move when the UA announced it would only be playing seven games this year. Then word got out that season ticket prices would remain the same and the whispers started. There were rumors that the cost of extension cords for the new scoreboard was crippling the budget. Internet speculation was that Sean Miller was demanding a new private jet for every day of the week.
No, it’s just a seven-game football schedule. The “less is more” philosophy applied to the gridiron.
There was a big sigh of relief when the NCAA ruled that Arizona could still qualify for a bowl game in 2011. A waiver was granted and the Cats will be eligible for the postseason with a 5-2 record (or better).
Wildcat Universe isn’t quite sure what to make of the situation but you’ve got to play the hand you’re dealt. Sometimes you’re playing war; sometimes it’s just 7-card stud.
So we go with it and, as we do before the start of any season, it’s time to establish a Line Of Agonizing Disappointment.
The UA is replacing eight of nine starters on both lines. I can’t see into the future or anything, but if defensive tackle Justin Washington were to somehow lose a bunch of weight due to a stomach issue the Wildcats would be perfectly inexperienced in the trenches.
Add it up and some will say the best fan strategy is to throw all expectations out the window and prepare for the worst. I can’t go that far. I still see enough talent to go to another bowl game.
For one thing, have you seen the schedule? There is only one ranked team to be found. No top-10 opponents anywhere. It’s not a death march, it’s a life hike.
That’s my LOAD: Go to a bowl game; win the bowl game.
What is the roadmap to five wins? The formula is very straight-forward: You must beat the teams with losing records – Oregon State (0-4), UCLA (2-3) and Colorado (1-4) – and the team from the Sun Belt (Louisiana-Lafayette). That leaves three games to get one win: at 4-1 Washington, 2-2 Utah at home, at 4-1 ASU. Here it is visually:
Arizona Wildcats 2011 Football Schedule, Abridged
|Sat.||Oct. 8||at OSU||MUST|
|Sat.||Oct. 27||at Washington|
|Sat.||Nov. 12||at Colorado||MUST|
|Sat.||Nov. 19||at ASU|
The thing with a seven-game season is there are no warm-up games. Game #1 is must-win. Win that and you get another must-win game. The pressure is on right now.
There are three reasons for optimism: Nick Foles, Nick Foles and Nick Foles.
If the season had started in September the UA offensive line wouldn’t have been ready and Foles would’ve taken a bunch of hits. With five extra weeks of practice, however, the hope is pass protection will be better and the slight threat of a running game will open up things like play-action bootleg passes to Taimi Tutogi.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say true freshman Ka’Deem Carey will play a significant role this year. Texas transfer Dan Buckner is another player to watch and I suspect he’ll have a real chance to lead the team in receptions. Juron Criner had a rough offseason and there may be lingering effects from a sudden surgery. I can’t divulge my sources but the procedure rhymes with “bappendectomy.”
The word out of training camp is to expect nothing from the Arizona defense. Zero. Actually, expect a really big number, as in allowing FBS teams to score 44.5 points per game. Give or take.
So that brings us back to Nick Foles Nick Foles Nick Foles. Keep him on the field, give him time, and let the Big Ocho throw the ball all over the field.
I completely understand that not all Wildcat fans are on board with this reduced schedule. Some say play all 12 games or don’t even bother. That’s fine. See you next year. A full schedule will be played in 2012 and each game will have big-picture ramifications when it comes to the future of Arizona Football.
But for right now, seven is what you get.
There’s nothing like the start of a new season. The team begins with a clean slate and the chance to write its own destiny. Seven games from Oct. 8 through Nov. 26. Three home games. Five wins needed to play in December.
For real this time.
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