Rich Rodriguez

All eyes remain on RichRod. Photo by Wildcat Universe

Your calendar is not deceiving you. There are college football games next week!

How optimistic are you heading into Rich Rodriguez’s third season with the Arizona Wildcats? This guy over here believes it’s time for the program to break through that eight-win glass ceiling.

With just nine work days and one weekend left before the Cats kick off it’s time to get moving on your preseason to-do list:

    1) Get your tickets.
    2) Stay friendly with potential tailgating hosts.
    3) Start planning your all-white ensemble for the Cal game.
    4) Set your personal Line Of Agonizing Disappointment.

That’s right, it’s LOAD time! How many UA wins will it take for you, Joe and Joan Q. Fan, to be satisfied with the 2014 season? Be honest! The Wildcat Universe doesn’t judge.

Two years ago was RichRod’s honeymoon season and he doubled the previous year’s win total. Last season he was breaking in a new quarterback and still posted eight wins.

In 2014 Rodriguez will again have a new QB and this time the Wildcats will also be without Ka’Deem Carey, one of the greatest running backs in Pac-12 history. Is it fair to expect Arizona to be better than last year?

I say yes.

Four of five starters return on the offensive line. There is a slew of talent at receiver including Austin Hill, a guy who was an absolute star the last time he took the field. Three of the four competing quarterbacks have a year in RichRod’s system. The defense made big strides from year one to year two under coordinator Jeff Casteel. The schedule is favorable.

Add in Rodrigeuz’s third recruiting class and an overall uptick in team speed and depth and it’s not unreasonable to think the Cats can be a fringe top-25 squad.

The next level is waiting. The UA has won exactly eight games in four of the past six seasons but Arizona has only exceeded that victory total five times in school history. The Wildcats have only three seasons with nine or more wins in the 36 years since joining the Pac-10.

It’s a reminder that RichRod has more experience with big-time football than Arizona does.

How does this team get to nine victories? Looking at the season slate the first four games need to be wins. The Oregon game is a freebie. The Ducks are the Pac-12 favorites and they’ll have a little bit of motivation in this one.

The USC game is the season crossroads. If Rodriguez can stay undefeated against the Trojans in Tucson and the Cats move to 5-1, the back half of the season becomes an opportunity to play for the division title.

If the UA has a 4-2 record heading into the second bye, nine wins is still achievable. Beating Colorado and Utah is crucial. You can’t move up in the standings if you don’t stay ahead of the teams below you.

Losing to ASU is not an option this year. The game is at home and RichRod does not want to fall to 0-3 against Todd Graham.

That’s seven wins. It means you have five chances (USC, at WSU, at UCLA, Washington and a bowl game) to win twice. Completely not impossible, right?

I could be satisfied with eight wins but only if they include both the Territorial Cup and extending the bowl streak.

If you’re looking for a negative crossroads it’s the UT-San Antonio game. That will be the new quarterback’s first road game (recall B.J. Denker’s scary passing numbers at UNLV last year) and UTSA has more seniors than any other team in the country.

Any slipups in the first four games would be a cause for concern in Tucson. It’ll also be a bad sign if the QB controversy lasts past the first couple games, or if the defense takes a big step backwards after losing five starters.

But it’ll be a great sign if Arizona’s receivers are running open all over the field, if the defensive players look faster and fresher, and if the return game looks like an actual threat.

It feels odd to say eight wins isn’t enough. When the Wildcat basketball program says, “This is Arizona” it means extended excellence. When you’re talking about the football team, “This is Arizona” means posting three straight eight-win seasons only once in 115 years.

But Rich Rodriguez wasn’t brought here to win eight games three years in a row. Mike Stoops would’ve done it with one more extra point.

No, RichRod has proven he can win more than that. His coaching staff is good enough to win more than that. I believe he’s brought in players good enough to win more than that.

Starting right now.

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This is the 10th edition of the LOAD. Have I really been doing this for that long? Are you really still reading?

(Thank you.)

Click on each year to see the original post. WARNING: Web design that was already horrible a decade ago.

YearLOADRecordEmotional Assessment
20066-76-6No Bowl = Bust

Of Stoops’ final seven seasons only two were satisfying. It’s pretty easy to see why it didn’t work out.

RichRod, however, is two-for-two in overachieving seasons. That trend can continue as long as it wants.

Here’s to living and dying with the next 10 years of Arizona Football, no matter what.

(But let’s hope the “what” is “a whole bunch of wins”).

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