Five seasons into his tenure in Tucson, Rich Rodriguez is very much on the hot-seat. Despite leading the Wildcats to the second-and-only 10-win season in the history of the program, the Wildcats have since disappointed, including a 3-9 (1-8 in conference) mark in 2016. Let’s take a rapid look at Wildcats 2017 slate.
Week 1: vs Northern Arizona Lumberjacks
During the last four outings against NAU, the Wildcats have outscored the Lumberjacks by a 187-40 margin, and that should be extended as NAU is coming off an average 5-6 season. Anything short of a big win here should be a cause for concern. Give me Arizona with a 41-10 victory here.
Week 2: vs Houston Cougars
Coaching changes are intact for the Cougars after a disappointing finish to a highly anticipated 2016 season, and the Wildcats need to be ready to take advantage. Houston will be coming off a fresh road game against UT-San Antonio (Arizona knows them well), which should be a nice tune-up, but sets up a chance for Arizona to pull a major upset here. In the end, I take the Cougars with a slim 24-20 margin of victory.
Week 3: @ UTEP Miners
First trip away from Tucson as the Wildcats go into El Paso and look to bounce back after a close loss to the Cougars. A loss here could lead to Rodriguez being canned prior to returning to Tucson, however, I can’t see that happening as the ‘Cats win 21-10.
Week 4: vs Utah Utes
The Utes have their eyes on winning the Pac-12 South, and with a bye week following, it is highly unlikely that the Utes overlook the ‘Cats. Zoned in, I see the Utes coming in, boasting their defense with a near shut-out 27-3 victory.
Week 5: BYE
A 2-2 mark at this point bodes well for Rodriguez sticking around for another season. He’ll need to tack on a few more wins while avoiding blow-outs the rest of the way. A 3-point loss to dwell on over a BYE will probably sting in Tucson.
Week 6: @ Colorado Buffaloes
Buffalo’s won the Pac-12 South last season, following it with a putrid showing against the Washington Huskies in the conference championship game. Unlike Arizona, the Buffs won’t be coming off a break, instead, a trip to the Rose Bowl. While the Buffalo’s won’t be as good as a year prior, they should do enough to outlast Arizona in an offensive-struggle en route to a 14-10 win.
Week 7: vs UCLA Bruins
Two coaches feeling the warmth on the bench should lead to an interesting mid-season meet up. Both sides will have played five games to this point. With Rosen aiming for a higher draft stock, and a new offensive game plan, Arizona will need to be clicking on all cylinders for an upset. I’m taking UCLA 38-20.
Week 8: @ California Golden Bears
Cal will be looking to bounce back and get back into contention of the Pac-12 North. A rebuilding year though is the perfect time for Arizona to add in another victory as they go into Berkeley and come out with a 21-10 victory.
Week 9: vs Washington State Cougars
Wazzou’s high octane offense put up 69 on the ‘Cats a year prior, and Wazzou should continue it on for the ’17 campaign. However, Arizona will end up scoring more than a consolation touch down as the final tally will end up in favor of the visitors, 45-28.
Week 10: @ USC Trojans
Clay Helton wants the Trojans to return to the top of the Pac, which won’t be hindered by Arizona as the Trojans go end-to-end with a 30-13 victory.
Week 11: Oregon State Beavers
The Beavers are hoping to turn the corner and go back to bowl eligibility in Gary Andersen’s third year at the helms. Oregon State went 4-8 last year, with three of the victories coming in conference play and a 42-17 thumping of the Wildcats in Corvallis. A year later, I take the Wildcats to avenge the loss with a 21-10 win.
Week 12: @ Oregon Ducks
Oregon fell to mediocrity with a 4-8 finish last season, a year they want to erase from the memory books. Last time the Wildcats visited Autzen, they handed Oregon a shocking 31-24 loss, which Oregon avenged in the Pac-12 title game with a 51-13 thumping. This time around, Oregon is able to hang on to a 17-14 victory.
Week 13: @ Arizona State Sun Devils
The 92nd Duel in the Desert isn’t expected to be as big as the one that determined the Pac-12 South Title, but, you can still expect both parties to come out firing. Arizona dominated the Sun Devils 56-35 in 2016, and the Sun Devils will get payback with a 28-20 win to end the ‘Cats 2017 campaign.
A 4-8 (2-7) end to the campaign will be damning to Rodriguez’ chances of remaining in the Old Pueblo, however, with four of the losses being within one possession could keep him around for another go.