2013-14 Arizona Wildcats Predictions and College Football Betting Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 7/15/2013
As a diehard Michigan fan, I will watch the second year of the Rich Rodriguez era with a mix of curiosity, hope, and a sense of doom. His second year at Michigan dawned with so much promise and ended with indescribable sadness. He’s in a much different situation in Arizona, though, and it’s a far better fit for him. So can he continue the progress he showed last year when his team was almost always exciting and when he stole a couple of games he had no business contending in? Or will he start working his way out of another job? Many Michigan fans have a strange relationship with the guy — he did his best to destroy our program, but we can’t help but cheer for him anyway.
On defense there is one big positive for this team. Jeff Casteel is still defensive coordinator. Rodriguez couldn’t convince Casteel to come with him from West Virginia to Michigan, and the subsequent defensive incompetence was perhaps the biggest of many factors that brought RichRod down. He’s here now, though, and that will make all the difference. Last year Casteel improved this defense significantly — which is a sign of just how far the program had fallen under Mike Stoops, because they were far from good last year. Casteel did it with a lot of smoke and mirrors, and he’ll have to do it again because the front seven still isn’t at the talent level he needs it to be. Incremental gains are the best we can hope for defensively for now, and a step backward is certainly possible.
Offensively, Rodriguez pulled off some miracles last year. He turned the three-headed monster of QB Matt Scott, running back Ka’Deem Carey, and receiver Austin Hill from an unheralded bunch into a fearsome group. Carey is back and a solid Heisman contender, but Scott has graduated, and Hill is out for much of the year after tearing an ACL in spring ball. Rodriguez has plenty of options at quarterback to choose from. Though each is intriguing in one way or another, none stands out as a can’t-miss choice or even an obvious first choice. Rodriguez got very lucky with Scott. His offensive success this year will depend largely on how lucky he gets this time around.
Arizona Schedule Analysis
Last year, in the first year of the Rich Rodriguez regime, the Wildcats were a big surprise. Now they need to prove that they can keep it up. The good news is that it is pretty easy to find six or seven wins thanks to a ridiculously weak nonconference schedule — Northern Arizona, UNLV, and Texas-San Antonio — and conference weaklings Utah, Colorado, Washington State and Cal. Climbing beyond bowl eligibility to the realm of respectability, though, is a much bigger task.
Conference play opens with trips to Washington and USC. Then after an easier stretch they face home games against UCLA and Oregon and then close out with a rivalry game against Arizona State that could be the most competitive we have seen in years. It will be a real test of whether the team is actually making progress or if things just fell the right way for them last year.
2013-14 Arizona Betting Odds and Trends
Arizona took huge strides forward last year, but they are still far from elite — they are +50000 longshots to win the national title. They are in a three-way tie for second at +300 to win the Pac-12 South Division and are the fourth choice at +650 to win the conference. Running back Ka’Deem Carey is a longshot to win the Heisman at +5000. (All odds are from BetOnline) The Wildcats pulled off some surprising wins but couldn’t consistently cover spreads — they were just 6-6 ATS. They were very good at going “over” totals, though — they did so eight times in 11 tries.
2013-14 Arizona Wildcats Predictions and College Football Picks
There is going to be some painful moments this year — there is no doubt about that. I think Rodriguez has learned from the Michigan debacle, though, and will avoid some of the same mistakes. He doesn’t have his personnel in place in key spots year, and injuries have created some real issues. The schedule is soft enough, though, that bowl eligibility is a bare minimum expectation. Anything beyond that is a bonus at this point. More significant is looking for signs of forward progress. If the team takes steps, and finds a QB with remaining eligibility that fits the system, then this could be a real sleeper team next year.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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