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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

“Five reasons why, five reasons why not for Arizona”

The University of Arizona football team takes part in morning practice Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2010, at the Rincon Vista Sports Complex in Tucson, Ariz. The Wildcats look to reach a bowl game for the third season in a row with quarterback Nick Foles at the helm.
(Photograph by Mike Christy)
Mike Christy
The University of Arizona football team takes part in morning practice Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2010, at the Rincon Vista Sports Complex in Tucson, Ariz. The Wildcats look to reach a bowl game for the third season in a row with quarterback Nick Foles at the helm. (Photograph by Mike Christy)

5 Reasons this is the year:

1: USC’s offseason meltdowns

Would anyone even be talking about Arizona’s chances to go to the Rose Bowl if USC was eligible to play this postseason? Probably not.

Thanks to the departure of former USC head coach Pete Carroll and the NCAA sanctions which prevents the Trojans from playing in the postseason until 2011.

Arizona has been given a sliver of hope to smell roses on Jan. 1, 2011.

Here’s an idea of just how dominant USC has been: Since 1961, USC has claimed the conference 22 times, including six straight years from 2003 to 2008.

With USC out of contention for the Rose Bowl, Arizona’s path is a little clearer even before the season kicks off.

 

2: Oregon’s quarterback woes

Coming off the 2010 Rose Bowl berth and a 2009 season championship, the Ducks were sitting pretty and looked positioned to repeat as the favorite in 2010 — until former quarterback Jeremiah Masoli was dismissed from the team for disciplinary reasons in early June.

Now Oregon’s offense is in the hands of sophomore Darron Thomas, who hasn’t played since the 2008 season. Sure, LaMichael James is the best running back in the conference, but losing a starting between seasons is an almost damning blow.

Had Oreogn and USC made it out of the offseason unscathed, it might have been another season of potential for the Wildcats.

Instead, Arizona is actually primed to make its jump to the Rose Bowl.

 

3: Schedule is amicable

If you’re not already excited about seeing Iowa, Oregon State, Washington, USC and ASU, take three seconds to get the adrenaline pumping.

Five of Arizona’s nine Pac-10 games are at Arizona Stadium. Bringing opponents to the desert not only means less travel time for the Wildcats but also that opposing players have to deal with that dreaded Zona Zoo.

Even the conference road schedule doesn’t seem that bad for Arizona in 2010. At Washington State, Oregon, Stanford and UCLA doesn’t exactly scream tough road schedule.

 

4: The offense is ready to explode

Quarterback Nick Foles’ arm. A trio of explosive running backs. A veteran receiving corps anchored by Juron Criner. There’s no reason why the Wildcats offense shouldn’t be set to take off through the air and on the ground this season. Now that Foles has control of the offense full-time, and the veteran offense line is back for another year, there’s seemingly nothing to stop Arizona from running up the scoreboard.

 

5: Dominating D-line

Even though concerns about the Wildcats’ defense have been constant throughout the offseason, its one saving grace has been the defensive line. Fifth year senior ends Ricky Elmore and Brooks Reed can get to the quarterback quickly, alleviating some pressure off of Arizona’s still-questionable secondary. Elmore had 10.5 sacks last season and is on the watch list for the 2010 Ted Hendricks Defensive End of the Year Award. With the defense being the main point of concern — having to rebuild after losing seven starters and its defensive coordinator in Mark Stoops in the offseason — Reed and Elmore are certainly good to have as cornerstones.

 

5 Questions for the year:

1. Can Nic Grigsby stay healthy?

Arizona’s top running back tore up defenses, averaging 7.2 yards per carry in 2009. The only problem is that Grigsby and his bum shoulder lasted only 76 carries, as he missed three games and played injured in six contests. With Keola Antolin and Greg Nwoko waiting in line, the Wildcats have other options, but there is no hiding that they’re a better and more dangerous team with Grigsby on the field.

2. Is Nick Foles ready for primetime?

Foles burst onto the college football scene in 2009, and his 19-touchdown season — despite taking a back seat to Matt Scott for the first three games — is one for the record books. But still, Foles only has less than a full season under his belt as a starting quarterback and disappeared when the stakes increased at the Holiday Bowl. With his smarts, NFL size and arm, Foles is expected to do big things this season, but will he perform up to expectations?

 

3. How will Delashaun Dean be replaced?

The Wildcats lost a two-year starter and serious outside receiver threat in the offseason as Delashaun Dean was released due to weapon charges. Arizona is set at the No. 1 spot with Juron Criner, but who will step up on the opposite side? Junior David Douglas is expected to start at the No. 2 spot, but he’s thrived mostly as an inside receiver, so it remains to be seen if he will be the right fit.

4. How will the revamped defense fare?

The Arizona defense returns only four starters and also lost defensive coordinator Mark Stoops. The Wildcats will start the season with a group of linebackers who have yet to start a Division I game and also have some inconsistencies in the secondary. The usually reliable Wildcats defense is now one of the biggest question marks heading into 2010.

5. Can the four-coordinator system work effectively?

Arizona is testing out a strategy that few college programs have never dared to try: co-coordinators on each side of the ball. Long-time NFL and college coach Greg Brown and linebackers coach and recruiting guru Tim Kish will head up the defense, as offensive line coach Bill Bedenbough and runningbacks and tight ends coach Seth Littrell will lead the offense. The Wildcats lost both Mark Stoops and Sonny Dykes in the offseason, both of whom simply can’t be replaced. The aforementioned quartet certainly has the skill set and experience to be successful, but it remains to be seen how the system will work out.

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