Arizona Wildcats Odds to win the College Football National Championship with Expert Betting Predictions
It wasn't that long ago that Kevin Sumlin was one of the geniuses of the sport and seemingly a lock for a high-profile NFL head coaching job sooner rather than later. But he never truly recovered from Johnny Manziel's departure, and now he is in Tucson, where coaches go after faltering at big programs. His arrival caps a tumultuous offseason, when Rich Rodriguez was fired after sexual harassment claims and is suing the school. Now Sumlin needs to prove that he can indeed coach, and he has another Heisman-caliber quarterback to help ease the transition for him. Sumlin surely hopes this is a stepping stone to another high-profile job in a few years, but it could just as easily be the last stop before an enforced broadcasting career. In a conference that is suddenly loaded with interesting coaches, he will be very intriguing to track.
2017 in a Nutshell
If 2017 was the last year Rich Rodriguez coaches in the FBS, it almost certainly isn't the kind he would have liked to go out on. There was only one real highlight and too many lowlights. They beat Northern Arizona in their opener but then lost to Houston. They crushed UTEP but lost at Utah. They got hot then and were bowl eligible by Week 8, capped by a season-best performance as they dominated Washington State at home. But then the wheels fell off. They were beaten up by USC, beat a bad Oregon State team, and then lost their last three - at Oregon and Arizona State and against Purdue in the Foster Farms Bowl. It was a perfectly forgettable season.
Key Additions and Departures
The coaching staff has undergone dramatic changes. The only holdover of note is defensive coordinator Marcel Yates, who enters his third year in the role at Arizona. He was formerly co-defensive coordinator for Sumlin at A&M, so the familiarity is conveniently there. The most eye-catching name among the new coaches is offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, who knows the Pac-12 well from his time at UCLA, Arizona State and Oregon State over the years in this same role. He was OC at A&M the last two years. He wouldn't be my first choice, but Sumlin is obviously comfortable with him.
Khalil Tate is locked into start at quarterback, with an undistinguished group of backups including, awkwardly, Rich Rodriguez' son Rhett. Lead running back Nick Wilson is gone, but depth is strong, and J.J. Taylor is a good bet to break out after finishing in a tie for Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year. They are solid at receiver, with their top three back, and tight end Bryce Wolma was a beast as a freshman last year and drew inevitable comparisons to Arizona alum Rob Gronkowski. The line is wide open as they have to replace three starters from what was a very strong unit last year. They have good depth here, though, with Michigan State transfer Tshiyombu Lukusa one getting a lot of buzz after finally becoming eligible.
The defensive line was not an overall strength last year - especially inside - so look for two Juco transfers and some freshmen to get plenty of opportunities to break through. Linebacker is a luxury as not only are the teams two top tacklers from last year back, but both are only true sophomores. Depth is an issue behind them, but in the 4-2-5 scheme it might not matter if Sumlin has some luck. DB Dane Cruikshank was drafted from a secondary that wasn't much good at anything other than picking off passes. They have four viable starters for three safety spots. Both corner starters are back, but that isn't necessarily a great thing, and the depth is the worst of any spot on the team.
Biggest Area of Concern
The secondary. The team was worst in the conference in pass defense last year, and there remain a lot of questions. The line isn't ideal, and the secondary can't necessarily make up for it. This is something teams can exploit, and more and more coaches in the league are suited to that challenge.
Arizona Wildcats Schedule Analysis
The nonconference schedule of BYU, Houston and Southern Utah is certainly not the toughest in the nation, though they travel to Houston, which won't be easy. Less than two wins from that slate would be a setback for Sumlin, though. He eases into conference play with Oregon State but then goes right to the deep end after that with USC. Cal should be manageable. A trip to Utah won't be easy, but a UCLA team in transition should be beatable. Then it's two measuring-stick games at home against Oregon and Colorado before heading to Washington State and hosting Arizona State. No Washington and Stanford, USC at home, and no high profile nonconference opponent adds up to a fairly soft schedule for Sumlin in his first kick at the Pac-12 can.
2018-19 Arizona Wildcats Betting Odds and Trends
Arizona is tied with Utah as the fifth choice to win the Pac-12 at +1600, which is obviously very far behind favored Washington. They are the second choice to win the Pac-12 South at +400, well behind favored USC. And at +30000 they obviously aren't given much of a chance to win the national title. The season win total is set at 7.5, with the "over" solidly favored. Khalil Tate is getting a lot of Heisman attention, currently tied with Shea Patterson at Michigan and Kyler Murray of Oklahoma as the co-fifth choice at +1600.
2018-19 Arizona Wildcats Predictions and College Football Picks
The defense is a bit of a concern, but the offense is solid, and Tate is very legitimate and will enjoy working under Sumlin. They aren't going to be a great team, but nine wins feels like a reasonable expectation to me. The over on the season win total is the way to go.
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