Over the month of July we will look at the top college football teams in the nation and preview 31 teams in 31 days. Here is team #26 and the 2010 Arizona Wildcats Football Preview.
No. 26 Arizona Wildcats
2009 record: 8-5
2009 Bowl Game: 33-0 loss to Nebraska in Holiday Bowl
2009 ATS: 6-5-1
Returning starters: 12 (8 on offense, 4 on defense)
The Wildcats had a high-flying offense last season, averaging 407.5 yards and 29.7 points per game. Junior Quarterback Nick Foles took over the starting job after transferring to Arizona from Michigan State. He threw for 2,486 yards and 19 touchdowns in ten games. He completed 260 of 410 pass attempts and threw nine picks.
He might split time with last year’s original starter Matt Scott. While Foles is a true pocket-passer, Scott is a run-first quarterback, and the combination of both could make for a dangerous duo.
Senior Nic Grigsby and Junior Keola Antolin will share time at running back. They combined for nine touchdowns last season. Grigsby had four scores, Antolin had five. The offensive line is experienced and might be the biggest strength of the program. They return Senior center Colin Baxter and Senior left tackle Adam Grant, who were named All-Pac 10 last season.
The Wildcats had a strong receiving corps last season. Juron Criner was the most successful wideout, catching 45 passes for 582 yards and nine touchdowns. He averaged 12.9 yards per reception. The team loses Terrell Turner, who was second in touchdown catches with four.
They will also lose receiver Delashaun Dean for at least part of the season, after the senior was suspended indefinitely for violating team rules. He was arrested on June 19 and charged with one count of misconduct involving weapons.
The Wildcats’ defense will return four starters, but has six players that have starting experience. The defensive line is probably the best part of Arizona’s defense with 2009 sack leaders, Senior defensive ends Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore leading the way.
Senior D’Aundre Reed and Junior Apaiata Tuihalamaka will add more speed to the line, and the Wildcats pass rush will be a tough test for any offensive line.
The Wildcats will have to replace all three starting linebackers. They lose Vuna Tuihalamaka, fourth in tackles and second in tackles for a loss last season, Xavier Kelley, second in tackles in 2009, and Sterling Lewis, who started 10 games. The new linebacker group will be inexperienced, but head coach Mike Stoops has been known to produce strong linebacker units.
Arizona has a strong secondary, and should be set in the defensive backfield. Cornerback Trevin Wade had five interceptions and 71 tackles last season. Strong safety Robert Golden added two picks and 41 tackles.
Kicker Alex Zendejas missed three extra points last season. He made eight of ten from 29 yards and under, seven of nine between 30 and 39 yards and two of three from 40 to 49. He didn’t have an attempt of 50+ yards. His longest field goal came from 47 yards out.
Punter Keenyn Crier averaged 41.5 yards and forced eight fair catches. He pinned opponents within the 20-yard line 13 times. The Wildcats’ punt coverage held opposing returners to an average of 6.4 yards.
William Wright averaged 17.5 yards on punt returns and scored one touchdown. Travis Cobb got the majority of kick returns, averaging 25.4 yards and scoring one touchdown. Keola Antolin had nine returns and averaged 28.4 yards.
Against the spread
The Wildcats were 6-5-1 against the college football point spreads last season. They did well as home favorites, covering in four out of five games. They struggled when favored on the road, going 0-1-1 ATS. They went 6-2-1 ATS when playing Pac-10 teams.
They are 54-56-2 ATS in the last ten years, and 35-30-2 under seventh year head coach Mike Stoops.
You can bet on it
Bet on the Wildcats at Washington State on October 16. Arizona scored on their first seven possessions last year and beat the Cougars 48-7. They have beaten WSU by 28 or more points the last three years, and won every game they have played against the Cougars since 2006.
Favor the fade
As for our college football pick against the spread, fade the Wildcats against Oregon State on October 9. Arizona has lost nine of the teams’ last 11 meetings. They did beat the Beavers last season, but had to hold off a late surge by Oregon State. Arizona quarterback Nick Foles had a great day in his first start for the Wildcats.
The Beavers seem to have the Wildcats’ number, and they won’t face an unknown quarterback this time. They will have had time to scout Foles and should go back to their winning ways against Arizona.