Kevin Sumlin’s first year at the helm in Tuscon was an up-and-down one, but they were just a point away from making a bowl, falling to archrival Arizona State in the final week of the regular season, 41-40 thanks to a late-game missed field goal. The Wildcats dealt with a ton of injuries in 2018, but with 15 starters back Sumlin seems to have a good shot at making a bowl in just his second year on the job.
QB Khalil Tate missed time with an ankle injury and was noticeably slower later on in the year, but still managed 8.4 yards a throw, 8.1 yards per carry (not counting sacks), and nearly four times as many touchdowns as interceptions. His accuracy (56%) needs some work, but he should improve as a senior.
In the backfield, the awesome JJ Taylor returns after 1,434 yards and six touchdowns on a 5.6 yard per carry average last year. His backup, Gary Brightwell returns as well (525, 3, 5.8), along with the #3, making this one of the most talented running back groups in the conference.
The receiving corps reboots with the top four gone, but Cedric Peterson and Stanley Berryhill are a couple of solid names to build around. Freshmen Boobie Curry and Jaden Mitchell could start off the bat. Four starters return on the line and they bring in two highly touted JUCOs, Josh Donavan at guard and Paiton Fears at tackle. I feel great about this offense.
The Wildcat defense, led by Colin Schooler (3.5 sacks, 18 (!) TFL, six PD) was solid last year, but they struggled to get pressure on the QB a lot of the time. Tackle JB Brown was the only lineman on the team with more than three sacks last year (he had 3.5).
Jalen Harris is back on the edge after three sacks as a freshman, and junior Kylan Wilborn had 7.5 in 2017 but saw his production drop off last year, Arizona needs him to step up his game again. JUCO Myles Tapusoa comes in at NG, and senior end Justin Belknap returns from injury to add to last year’s group.
Along with Schooler in the middle, his partners on the second level both return as well, Tony Fields and Tristan Cooper. All four starters are back in the secondary, and they get Jace Whittaker back from injury after he had 13 PBUs in 2017. This defense should be improved.
The Pac-12 looks to poised to have a pretty good year on the whole, which could put a bit of a damper on the Wildcats’ individual expectations, but I expect this team to improve on both sides of the ball and make a bowl. They have a chance to be 5-0 heading into a home game against Washington in week seven, win that, and all bets are off.
|Date||Opponent||opp. rank||Proj. Margin|
|30-Nov||at Arizona State||33||-4.5|
Average Projected Record: 6.3 wins, 5.7 losses (3.8 wins, 5.2 losses)