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Looking ahead to Arizona football's conference play

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Ana Beltran | The Daily Wildcat Wildcats running back to the lockerroom right after warm-ups. Tonights game is vs Texas Tech.

Arizona football enters conference play with a 2-1 record and faces off against UCLA this week. Our beat reporter, Jack Cooper, Amit Syal and Austin Wales break down what to expect for the rest of the season.

Jack Cooper:

After an up-and-down first couple of weeks for Arizona football, they stand above .500 at 2-1. Their schedule won’t get any easier as the Wildcats head into conference play this week against University of California in Los Angeles. 

The Bruins are 1-3 after a very impressive 67-63 win in Pullman against No. 18 Washington State. UCLA was down 49-17 at one point in the second half and was still able to put up 67 points. There should be no shortage of scoring in this game, but that’s what everyone was expecting when Arizona took on Texas Tech, and that turned into a defensive battle.

After that, Arizona will then have to travel to Colorado, where the Buffaloes have been playing some solid football. Laviska Shenault Jr. is Colorado’s do-it-all wide receiver who has drawn comparison to Julio Jones, who is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. If Arizona’s new and improved defense is able to slow him down, then that game should be a coin flip where either team could win.

Arizona’s next two games against Washington and USC will be tough though since Washington is currently ranked No. 17 and USC should be ranked after they beat No. 10 Utah this past weekend. USC’s starting quarterback, JT Daniels, is out for the rest of the year after knee surgery and their second-string quarterback, Kedon Slovis, got dinged up on the first possession of the game against Utah. Looking ahead, Arizona then travels to Stanford, where the Cardinals have been struggling all year.

Then, the Wildcats will travel back down to Tucson where they will have to play Oregon State for its Homecoming game. The Beavers haven’t had much success this year and aren’t expected to cause too much of a problem for Arizona.

The last three games to finish the year will be extremely tough. Arizona will have to travel to Oregon, where the Ducks are the top-ranked team in the Pac-12. Utah will then come to Tucson for the Wildcats’ Senior Day and Khalil Tate’s last game at Arizona Stadium. To finish off the regular season, Arizona will have to travel up to Tempe, Ariz., and face off against a team they haven’t beaten since 2016. Arizona State University had an impressive win at Michigan State and then got ranked, but then lost to Colorado at home. Pac-12 football is very unpredictable, especially when the games take place after dark, so Arizona could win or lose any game.


Prediction: 8-4, 6-3 in conference play


Amit Syal:

After going 2-1 in the first three weeks of play, Arizona football has never looked better since Kevin Sumlin took over the reigns last year. However, one important thing not to overlook is the fact that two out of Arizona’s first three games have been under the Arizona Stadium lights with a home crowd of about 40,000 people during each game.

Arizona continues their home run this week against UCLA to start conference play. The Bruins have had a rocky start to their season so far, getting their first win last weekend in a 67-63 win against Washington State on the road in a late game rally.

Because Arizona is playing a team like UCLA to kick off conference play, combined with the fact that the Wildcats had a bye week this past weekend, they should have no trouble getting their third win of the season and first of conference play.

After finishing the three-game homestand, Arizona football will travel to Colorado to face the Buffaloes in its second conference game of the season. Colorado hosts Arizona for its Family Weekend game and is coming off a 34-31 win against ASU. The Buffaloes are 3-1 on the season and their game against Arizona could honestly go either way, given the shakiness of the Wildcats these past couple years.

Arizona comes back home to host the Washington Huskies for Family Weekend. The Huskies have had a great start to their season this year and this could potentially be one of Arizona’s toughest games all season. 6-foot-6 quarterback Jacob Eason has led the Huskies to a 3-1 start, only dropping one game 19-20 to University of California, Berkeley in a thunderstorm-delayed game earlier on in the season.

After facing UCLA, Colorado and Washington, Arizona should be able to go 2-1 in the next three games, bringing them to an overall record of 4-2. Looking ahead, with the last six games against USC, Stanford, Oregon State, Oregon, Utah and ASU, Arizona needs to snag at least two wins in order to make a bowl game for the first time since 2017..

Prediction: 7-5, 5-4 in conference play

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Austin Wales:

The Arizona Wildcats (2-1) head into their conference play this weekend against UCLA. The conference play for the Wildcats will be a tough schedule, as they play four teams in the Pac-12 who are ranked within the top-25 teams in the nation. 

Arizona’s first week against UCLA should be a good one; UCLA recently beat Washington State 67-63 in a shootout, as the Bruins came back after being down 32 points. The Wildcats will be fully rested after coming off a bye week and we shall see if the rest will help for the heavy passing we saw from Chip Kelly and the Bruins. 

Several key games we need to look forward to in conference play for the Wildcats will be the game against Washington, who comes to Tucson, Ariz., on Oct. 12, USC and the game against Oregon on Nov. 16. These three games are going to be crucial to whether or not the Wildcats have a good chance at making the Pac-12 championship. Washington, who brings junior quarterback Jacob Eason, has a multitude of weapons, but the Huskies, who narrowly beat Arizona in 2016 by a score of 35-28, have never been great at playing in the desert, but again, the pass defense for Arizona will be tested.

The same goes for their game against Oregon and senior quarterback Justin Herbert. Herbert, who is listed as one of the top quarterbacks in the 2020 NFL Draft, shows a lot of poise in the pocket and has a very strong arm and decision-making thus far in the season has been superb. Herbert seemed a bit off last year when Arizona beat Oregon 44-15, so revenge seems imminent for the Ducks, especially at Autzen Stadium.

USC should be a good test for Arizona, as they need to steal this game since the Trojans don’t have a steady quarterback after losing their first two quarterbacks to injury this season. Playing at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum should be a good early test for the Wildcats; however, if they win, they will set themselves up for success for a potential bowl game.

Prediction: 7-5 overall, 5-4 in conference play


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