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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Staff Picks

    How UA will finish


    Michael Schwartz
    Sports editor

    In football, both college and pro, there are always teams that everyone thinks will turn it around and then actually do it. If you look at the talent on Arizona’s roster, something they haven’t had in years, there’s no reason they won’t make a Cal-esque turnaround, like when a losing Golden Bears squad turned into a winner earlier in the decade. Get ready for Vegas, because the Wildcats are finishing fourth in the Pac.

    8-4, Las Vegas Bowl


    Roman Veytsman
    assistant sports editor

    How they will finish: 8-4 or 4-8? For the Wildcats this year, it will be four games rather than that one against ASU (two years ago) or the one against UCLA (last year) that determine the success of the season. No in-between; it’s either blackjack or bust. Look at the schedule: Four sure-fire wins in Stephen F. Austin, Washington, at Washington State and at Stanford and four sure-fire losses at LSU, USC, Cal and at Oregon. That leaves four games to decide the season. BYU, UCLA, Oregon State and ASU. Call me an optimist.

    8-4, Las Vegas Bowl


    Ryan Casey
    assistant sports editor

    Ready to go bowling? So are these guys. After a tough stretch to open the season that includes two preseason top-10 opponents in LSU and USC, things get a little bit easier starting Sept. 30 at home against Washington. Expect the Cats to take out a little bit of frustration on the Huskies that day, using the game as a spring board toward a 7-5 season and – yes – a bowl game.

    7-5, Emerald Bowl


    Tom Knauer
    senior writer

    Each year under Mike Stoops, the Arizona football team has shown clear improvement on the field, even if its record hasn’t indicated it. The Wildcats have a tough schedule – as always, it seems – but my guess is that players are starting to rid themselves once and for all of the debilitating mentality that’s led to a slew of close losses in recent seasons.

    6-6, Hawaii Bowl

    Team MVP


    Michael Schwartz
    Sports editor

    Instead of taking the easy way out like two of my esteemed colleagues, I’ve got to name the most talented player on the entire roster. With Antoine Cason entrenched in the secondary and a host of quality players around him, the Wildcats have the type of dominant unit that can carry a team to a bowl. With his talent and two years of experience under the Stoops brothers, expect a monster year.

    Antoine Cason


    Roman Veytsman
    assistant sports editor

    Did the “”Savior”” ever win Pac-10 Player of the Week last season? Did he ever single-handedly carry the Wildcats on his shoulders, grab three interceptions and score a touchdown in one game. Does the “”Chosen One,”” the “”Golden Boy”” or the “”Future”” come from a city called Pfluggerville? Didn’t think so. Mike Stoops is turning this program around with defense and Michael Johnson (no, not the sprinter) is crucial to protecting against the pass (team-leading four passes defended and four interceptions) and the run (second on the team in tackles). And he’s only going to improve on those numbers.

    Michael Johnson


    Ryan Casey
    assistant sports editor

    Yes, it’s true, Willie Tuitama is the most valuable player to the program, and there’s no disputing that. But where would Tui be without Thomas? Last season, the pair combined for 382 yards on 19 completions, including 14 first downs and three touchdowns. Expect those numbers to improve this season.

    The “”T’n’T”” Connection


    Tom Knauer
    senior writer

    Would anyone be excited about this season if Richard Kovalcheck was still the starting quarterback?

    Willie Tuitama

    Upset


    Michael Schwartz
    Sports editor

    I know, I know. When USC has been on Arizona’s schedule the past few years, the only question has been if the Wildcats will beat the spread. But this year is different. Gone are Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, LenDale White and a host of other stars. Sure they’ve still got some star power, but it will take a little time for the new pieces to gel. This might sound crazy, but did you pick Arizona over UCLA last year?

    USC


    Roman Veytsman
    assistant sports editor

    I’m not going to lie to you. I will be present at what ESPN’s Jim Caple called the best college football stadium in college football, LSU’s Tiger Stadium, on Sept. 9. Don’t be jealous. You’ll enjoy one of the greatest upsets in Arizona history from your couch. I’ll send a postcard.

    LSU


    Ryan Casey
    assistant sports editor

    LSU? Maybe if it wasn’t on the road. USC? Perhaps if they weren’t USC. No, I’m going with Cal. There’s so much hype around that program this season, and as we all saw last year, highly-ranked teams coming into Tucson on Homecoming don’t necessarily fare too well against Stoops’ Troops. UCLA didn’t see it coming; neither will Cal.

    California


    Tom Knauer
    senior writer

    Maybe this game doesn’t qualify. After all, Arizona destroyed this opponent the last time they met, and the other team has since lost its two best players on offense and its unquestioned defensive leader. But if the Wildcats can beat UCLA two years in a row – this time in a surely jam-packed Rose Bowl – it could give the team some needed momentum as it confronts a merciless end-of-season slate.

    UCLA

    X-factor


    Michael Schwartz
    Sports editor

    In past years Arizona hasn’t been able to create much of a pass rush, and without last year’s sack leader Copeland Bryan, who had 7.5, no returner has more than two. Enter No. 1 junior-college transfer Louis Holmes and possibly five-star prospect Gabe Long, who hasn’t been cleared yet. If they’re as good as expected, Arizona will have a great line with depth to go with their strong back seven.

    Louis Holmes and Gabe Long


    Roman Veytsman
    assistant sports editor

    Since I couldn’t pick the X-Man, Xavier Smith (already taken) or the X-Dude redshirt freshman Xavier Kelley (won’t make a significant impact), I’m going with the XL squad, as in the O-line. Returning five guys who started at least three games, this group must open up more holes for Smith, Chris Henry and Chris Jennings and protect Big Willie. The pressure is on, boys.

    Offensive line


    Ryan Casey
    assistant sports editor

    Yep, I’m going with running backs too, but specifically Xavier Smith. Chris Henry will be the starter, but Smith, a Tucson native, must play a huge role in Arizona’s offense this season in order for the team to be successful. As a redshirt freshman with no game experience, he must perform the way he has in fall camp on plays when Henry isn’t on the field.

    Xavier Smith


    Tom Knauer
    senior writer

    With all the minor, sporadic injuries suffered by former running back Mike Bell during his career, it’s equal parts morbid and sensible to suggest that maybe he should have faked a season-ending ACL tear just to stick around for another 900-yard year. As it is, the burden falls on a motley crew to give opposing defenses any reason not to blitz the quarterback every other play.

    The running game

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