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Arizona Wildcats Preview – 2014

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Arizona Wildcats Preview – 2014

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Reminder for first time readers: The CFBMatrix is built on simplicity. For predictions and previews I use only my trends and rankings of Talent, Location (schedule) and Coaching. T.L.C.

Talent:

By the time the Wildcats put out the fire from coach Mike Stoops’ tenure, the damage was done. While I felt Stoops could coach well, he couldn’t recruit a lick. He closed out his tenure with recruiting classes ranked No. 79, 36, 59 and 50. That hurt, and the last two were the ones handed off to coach Rich Rodriguez. In the last decade, the average Wildcat class was ranked 40th, and Rich Rod and his staff have pulled No. 34 and 31 classes in their first two cycles. That is a very good trend, but I need another year or two of the same to buy into the stickiness of it and to start pushing Arizona up the win total ladder as talent rises in the desert. While my CFB Matrix system is designed to look at the team not individuals, I do know elite talent wins games and losing Ka’Deem Carey early to the draft stings a bit. Regardless, I have the Cats at No. 46 on my talent rankings for 2013. They return 66 percent of their key defensive production stats, get seven starters back on offense, including four O-linemen, but lose the aforementioned Carey and their starting QB.

Coaching:

Rodriguez was the first guy that showed me that good coach effect was not transferable. When he went to Michigan from West Virginia, I would have bet the Wolverines to be in a national title game within four years. Then, he went to Arizona and became great again and, thus, made me think that internal culture that we cannot see behind the curtain could be quite powerful (For example, Brady Hoke was solid at Ball State and San Diego State, but now is a Michigan man underperforming the talent so far). In year one in Tucson, Rich Rod went plus-4 games coach effect. He was my coach of the year in the PAC 12. Plus-4 is a very rare occurrence (unless you are Kansas State’s Bill Snyder), and he came back down to earth with a plus-1 games in year 2. He is averaging plus-1.5 games at home and plus-1 on the road, so when you are looking for upsets the lean are home games.

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Schedule:

I would call this schedule average. There are some nice elements and some disadvantages. Three easy non-conference games and four road games in conference play are solid, but getting stuck with Oregon, Washington and Washington State from the Pac-12 North is not the friendliest draw. The first three games are UNLV, at Texas-San Antonio and home against Nevada. Those three opponents average a No. 109 recruiting class and should be blowouts or at worst easy wins.

Week 4 brings Cal to town. I expect coach Rich Rodriguez to find a plus-1 home coach effect, and this one with the Bears should be it. At worst, the Wildcats enter the week 4 bye with three wins. After the bye week break, there is no break: at Oregon, then home to face USC. There is no way I would even think about Arizona in Eugene, and USC is a winner as well. The Cats are looking at a bye after USC, but there is no Trojan trap either; they have Colorado the following week. Arizona enters the second and last bye of their season at 3-3.

Just like the last bye, they come out of this one on the road. This time it is 1,200 miles away in Pullman. This is a poor schedule break, on the road after a bye and on the road again next week. The next game is at UCLA, so the visit to Martin Stadium could be seen as a trap game of sorts. If this is in Tucson, I grab the Cats. This is a situation where a team needs their focus and talent to push them over the top on the road. If the Cats are going to beat one of my picks on the road, it is this one or the big trap game at Utah. I do not see it happening at UCLA in Week 10. Bruins coach Jim Mora has also be rock solid in beating teams with lower talent and roster rankings. If the predictions are correct and the Cats are in a four-game or more losing streak, they bust out of it with a home win over Colorado. Everyone gets a home win over Colorado, until the Buffs’ recruiting improves. Arizona needs to be 5-4 at this point for a possible bowl berth.

The last three are all tough games. Arizona could go 0-3 in this stretch. One loss is at home against Washington. I am very curious about this game. It is near the end of the first season for coach Chris Petersen, and this is the type of road game that Husky fans have come to accept as a loss in recent years. The talent gap is too much for me to take Arizona. The last road game in Week 13 is at Utah. The Utes should be fighting for their bowl eligibility lives as well. With the Territorial Cup at Arizona State the next week, this is a perfect game for Arizona to over look. If they have six wins coming into this game, they may not care about it too much as they are out of the Pac 12 South race and already bowl eligible. I have Arizona dropping this one and are 5-6 heading home to face the Sun Devils. Finally, a home game that swings a pick in their favor. If this game is at a neutral site or in Tempe, I flip it to ASU. If both teams slip up on a game or two early, the win might get a bowl and the loser can watch it form home on TV. The Cats finish 2014 with a Territorial Cup victory and are bowl eligible.

Dave’s Quick and Dirty CFB Matrix read:

Arizona has a CFB Matrix roster talent ranking better than six teams on their schedule. Their 2014 baseline total is 6-6. Minus-2 games for opponents home field strength, plus-1 at home to get to a 5-7 projection. Plus-1 game coach effect at home and plus-1 on the road to bring it to 7-5. Due to above average losses in offense and defensive productions record is adjusted to 6-6. My favorite would be 6.5.

2014 Win Loss Schedule Pattern

W, W, W, L, bye, L, L, bye, L, L, W, L, L, W  (and +1 coach effect) Record projected 6-6 – 4th

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