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Better Know a 2017 Opponent: Arizona

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Finally, a team that was worse than us!

NCAA Football: Arizona at UCLA Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

I think it’s really cool that UCLA gets 2 bye weeks in a row this year!

LAST YEAR

Finally, we get to preview a team that was actually worse than UCLA last year. And boy howdy were the Wildcats bad. Arizona gave up more than 34 points in 9 of their 12 games last year; in what I’m sure is a simple coincidence, Arizona lost 8 of those games. On the flip side, the offense, which you’d hope would be good considering Rich Rod is the head coach, only managed to top 30 points 3 times all year.

Honestly, I’m not sure how Rich Rod kept his job after this abomination of a season. It’s hard to blame injury here - #1 QB Anu Solomon only played in 5 games last year, but he was already an injury risk from previous seasons. And Arizona’s defense has been so bad the past few years that calling them turnstiles would be disingenuous to actual turnstiles.

But it wasn’t all bad news for the Wildcats last year. They did beat Arizona State last year in one of the funniest games all season. No, seriously - Arizona ran for 511 yards and only threw for 77 in the victory (the Wildcats had more yards running than ASU had yards total), and the Wildcat victory kept the Sun Devils from a bowl game. Fun times for everyone in Arizona!

(Also, I need to point out that the only 3 Pac 12 schools with good basketball teams last year had bad football teams. This is why wishing on monkey paws are a bad idea.)

THE FANS

I have friends at both Arizona and Arizona State. The Arizona students would like people to know that Arizona State was their safety school, while the ASU students say a similar thing about Arizona. Frankly, both of these schools were safety schools for Cal State Northridge students, so I’m not sure what all the fuss is about.

The Zona Zoo, Arizona’s student section, exemplifies the standard of excellence on display here.

I assume an ASU alum put that video together, because it cuts off before the actual fail, but Arizona does not win that game. To be fair, almost beating Oregon was one of the greatest moments in Arizona football history.

THE COACHES

HOW DOES RICH RODRIGUEZ STILL HAVE A JOB?!?

Rich Rod is the poster boy for making bad career decisions. Let’s look at his career up to this point:

2002-2007: Head coach of West Virginia. Rich Rod would lead the Mountaineers to a Sugar Bowl win in 2005 and a Fiesta Bowl berth in 2007, finishing with a winning record in every season after his first year.

2006: Turned down an offer to become the head coach of Alabama. Alabama then turns to failed NFL coach Nick Saban to take over their program. The alternate universe where Rich Rod takes this job has to be the saddest universe of them all.

2007-2010: Head coach of Michigan. Rich Rod’s tenure as Wolverine head coach went fantastically, just as you can imagine. Michigan fans weren’t super happy about missing bowl games, especially considering the school was on a 33 year bowl streak prior to Rodriguez’s arrival. But, to be fair to Rich Rod, at least he didn’t lose at home to Appalachian State.

2012-today: Head coach of Arizona. Arizona did win the Pac 12 South once, which I guess makes him a better head coach than Kyle Whittingham SHOTS FIRED BOOOOM.

Thing is, Arizona probably shouldn’t be as bad as they are right now. It should be rather easy to get players to a school with minimal academic standards and an active alumni base, and yet Arizona constantly struggles to get any consistent success. At this point, the Wildcats might be better off having Sean Miller coach the football team. That way you could guarantee some degree of regular season success before flaming out spectacularly in the postseason.

THE PLAYERS

Brandon Dawkins is probably the presumptive frontrunner for the starting QB spot, but I wouldn’t count out Khalil Tate in that competition. UCLA fans will remember Tate as the Arizona quarterback who has come closest to beating UCLA under Rich Rod (which admittedly wasn’t as huge of a feat as it sounds).

Beyond him, this is a similar situation to Colorado in that there aren’t a ton of big returning names on this Arizona team. Unlike Colorado, though, this isn’t because everyone graduated. In this case, it’s because everyone on offense got injured last year, while the defense was so bad that just establishing a base level of competency would have made you Arizona’s best defender last year (on that note, congrats to DeAndre Miller!). The best defender for this year’s Wildcat defense last played at Boise State, and the best returning Wildcats from last year’s squad up front are former walk-ons. That’s probably fine.

FEARLESS PREDICTION

The funniest running gag in the Pac 12 is definitely Jim Mora continually eating Rich Rod’s lunch, and that continues this year.

Also it’s been awhile and at least one of these coaches is getting fired at some point this year so might as well have another brawl between these teams. We’re due.