The 2013 college football season is on the horizon and it can only mean one thing:
It is time to set your Line Of Agonizing Disappointment for the Arizona Wildcats.
The idea is to set your expectations for the team before the emotions of the first unexpected win or loss get in the way. It’s answering the question, “Well, what did you expect?!” before the midseason grumbling kicks in.
This is a personal exercise so be honest. It doesn’t do any good to predict a perfect season when you know the team has holes. It’s not fair to sandbag and claim a three-win season is acceptable so that 5-7 looks like a grand achievement.
What is the minimum number of Wildcat wins that will make you satisfied with the season?
Last year Rich Rodriguez and the Cats exceeded everyone’s rational expectations and posted eight victories. Any time you take a group of players you didn’t recruit and double the previous season’s win total, you’ve had a good year
The drawback to overachieving in Year One, however, is it tends to skew the projections for Year Two. In a normal rebuilding process last year was the season that should happen this year. Does that mean this season will look more like the major transition that takes place when a new coach comes in?
On top of that, ever since RichRod’s first spring practices I’ve prepared myself for his second season at Arizona to be worse than his first. There are two logical reasons: two fewer home games than 2012, and no Matt Scott at quarterback.
But the Wildcats return almost the entire defense. Yes, the offense is missing 3,600 passing yards and 177 receptions from last year but the Cats are bringing back four offensive lineman who started a total of 37 games last year and, ohbytheway, the nation’s leading rusher.
So let’s break it down. The UA had a 7-5 regular season record in 2012. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to subtract two wins for losing Scott, as you don’t win the USC or Nevada games without him (and probably not Oklahoma State, Washington or even Toledo).
Take away another win for playing two fewer home games. You can’t use the easier out-of-conference schedule as a reason for optimism because the 2012 squad went undefeated in non-league games. Even if you schedule three games against RhettRod’s high school team you can’t improve on 3-0.
(By the way, now that RhettRod is in high school, shouldn’t the recruiting services be listing him as a 2017 Arizona commit? Because that would be excellent.)
In conference play, three of Arizona’s four wins last year came at home (Washington, USC, Colorado). So of the UA’s seven Pac-12 rematches from this year, six are either on the road or against teams that beat the Cats last year.
The positive is the two new Pac-12 teams on the slate. Stanford and Oregon State (two Wildcat losses last year) are replaced by WSU and Cal (three combined conference wins last year).
You have to like the Cats’ chances against Utah at home, Colorado on the road and Wazzu at home. Win one more (at Cal? UCLA at home? The fifth straight Territorial Cup game to be won by the visiting team?) and you’ve got the same 4-5 league record and 7-5 regular season as last year.
I tried to prepare myself for 2013 being a major rebuilding year but I can’t honestly do it. Even if the passing game takes a sizable step backward the defense should take an equally significant step forward and the overall schedule is easier.
Most importantly, after last season I can’t bet against RichRod. So the final equation reads:
7 – (2 x Matt Scott) – ( (8 – 6 home games) / 2) + (Stanford > Cal) + (OSU > WSU) + R² = 7
That’s my LOAD. Three non-conference wins again, four Pac-12 wins again and another bowl game.
If Rodriguez can post back-to-back winning seasons as he’s building his program it would have to be considered a success no matter how you do the math.