Head Coach: Rich Rodriguez
2014 record: 10-4 overall, 7-2 Pac 12 South
2014 Postseason results: Lost to Boise State 38-30 in the Fiesta Bowl
2015 returning starters: 6 offense, 5 defense
Odds to win 2016 College Football Championship game: 130/1
Odds to win 2015 Pac 12 Championship Game: 14/1
Odds to Win 2015 Pac 12 South Division: 7/1
Regular season wins: over 7 -140 / under 7 +110
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Last year, the Arizona Wildcats went 10-2 in the regular season and won the Pac 12 South Division. It was only the second 10 win season in program history and was highlighted by an upset over Oregon in the regular season. The Ducks would win the rematch in the Pac 12 Championship game 51-13 in Santa Clara. Still the Wildcats would go to the Fiesta Bowl where they lost to Boise State 38-30. The two season ending losses did not put a damper on what was a great season before then.
This year only 11 starters are back for coach Rich Rodriguez. It could be a little bit of a rebuilding year for the Wildcats in a tough Pac 12.
Last year, Arizona averaged 464 yards per game and 35 points per game. The Wildcats were in the top 30 in both categories nationally and passing as well. Co-offensive coordinators Calvin Magee and Rod Smith get six starters back on offense.
Sophomore quarterback Anu Solomon returns after a solid freshman year. Solomon completed 58% of his passes for 3,793 yards with 28 touchdowns and 9 interceptions, and also rushed for 291 yards on 137 carries with 2 touchdowns. Redshirt freshman Brandon Dawkins and former LSU quarterback Jerrard Randall, a senior, will compete for the back-up job.
Sophomore running back Nick Wilson had 236 carries for 1,375 yards and 16 touchdowns, along with 12 catches for 90 yards and a touchdown. Jared Baker is a fifth year senior and will get most of the back-up carries. He had 25 carries for 99 yards and 2 touchdowns last year, and also caught a touchdown pass. Although Randall never threw a pass at quarterback last season, he did have 15 rushing attempts for 104 yards and a touchdown.
Cayleb Jones returns as the go-to receiver after making 73 catches for 1,019 yards and 9 touchdowns. Samajie Grant had 45 catches for 718 yards and 6 touchdowns and also returns. The Wildcats must replace Austin Hill who had 49 catches for 635 yards and 6 touchdowns. Trey Griffey, Nate Phillips and David Richards will also get a lot of targets as well. All three had at least 23 catches last year. Josh Kern takes over at tight end but the Wildcats mostly use the tight end for blocking.
Only two starters are back on the offensive line. Both guards return in Cayman Bundage and Jacob Alsadek. Freddie Tagaloa, a transfer from Cal has All-Conference potential at left tackle. Lene Maiava will start at right tackle his third position in his career on the line. A pair of former walk-ons will compete at center in Carter Wood and David Catalano.
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The defense struggled in 2014 allowing 451 yards (281 passing) per game and 28 points. Five starters are back for defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel.
Senior Reggie Gilbert was granted a fifth year of eligibility by the NCAA. He will anchor the line if he can stay healthy. Parker Zellers and Sani Fuimaono will likely start at the tackles.
Junior linebacker Scooby Wright will be in the NFL as soon as next season. Last year he had 163 tackles, 29 for loss and 14 sacks and was the Pac 12 Defensive player of the year. He will be joined by Cody Ippolito, Jake Matthews and Derrick Turituri who all started at least six games last season.
The secondary must replace three starters. Actually, Jarvis McCall might have a hard time keeping his starting spot at corner because the Wildcats moved receiver DaVonte’ Neal to cornerback. Cam Denson will likely start at the other corner spot. The two safeties Jamar Allah and Tellas Jones combined for 47 tackles last season.
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Senior kicker Casey Skowron made 20 of 28 field goals last year. Senior punter Drew Riggleman averaged 46 yards per punt last year. Neal will likely return punts again after returning a punt for a touchdown last year and averaging 11.1 yards per return. Tyrell Johnson averaged 23.7 yards per kick return. Cayleb Jones returned a kick for a touchdown last year.
The non-conference schedule is pretty soft with home games against UTSA and Northern Arizona and a road game at Nevada. Arizona closes out September with the conference opener at home against UCLA. October brings road games at Stanford, Colorado, and Washington, and home games against Oregon State and Washington State. In November, the Wildcats travel to USC, host Utah and close the season against Territorial Cup rival Arizona State in Tempe.
The offense should be just as high scoring if not more in 2015. The offensive line needs to be better in pass protection as they allowed 40 sacks. Even with Wright, the defense needs to improve, and I don’t know if they have the talent to do so. In a tough Pac 12, I think it adds up to six or seven wins. The Wildcats will go to a bowl but I don’t see them contending for the Pac 12 title again.
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