In a normal year, you would have to wait until the end of the season to watch the Arizona Wildcats and the ASU Sun Devils battle it out on the gridiron for territorial bragging rights. But this year, as we all know, is far from normal.
The Pac-12 officially announced on Friday, July 31, that the Wildcats will host the Sun Devils on Sept. 26 to begin its newly revised 2020 conference-only schedule. The Pac-12 kept the theme of marquee match-ups on week one by also scheduling USC vs. UCLA and the University of Washington vs. Stanford University to occur on the same day. The Pac-12 also plans on having a conference title game on Dec. 18.
Skeptics will see this as the Pac-12 having little confidence in a season being played and wanting to take in as much money up front as possible. After all, that is an easy way to look at it given the conference’s reputation. But this season will premiere one of the biggest rivalries in all of collegiate sports to kick off what will be a wacky and historic college football season. Buckle up everyone, because this will be a wild ride.
Arizona ended last season with a 24-14 loss to ASU and will be hoping to capture its first win over the Sun Devils since 2018. The Wildcats will trot out a roster with a lot of question marks.
The Wildcats will hope to have an improved defense with their new defensive coordinator, Paul Rhoads. Rhoads will be implementing a completely new defensive scheme as his way of turning around one of the worst defenses in the country last season.
The remainder of spring camp being cancelled and the delay of summer camp have given the Wildcats little to no time to become familiar with this new scheme. Arizona will also be replacing linebacker Tony Fields who announced his intent to transfer back on July 17. Not an ideal situation to be experimenting with new players and schemes against your in-state rival to start the year.
The Wildcats do, however, have some solidity on the other side of the ball. Second-year quarterback Grant Gunnell is expected to be the team’s full-time starter after receiving all of the first-team reps in the spring practices.
“We have only two quarterbacks that played in games and one that actually won a game,” said head football coach kevin sumlin during spring camp. "If you go from that standpoint, I think you kind of saw the order of things, but we’re competing. We have all our quarterbacks here. [Gunnell] obviously because he has played in games and won a game, that’s where it is right now. It’s a competition across the board. He’s the leader in the clubhouse right now based on what he has done in the past.”
The offense will also feature a strong core of returning wide receivers, all of which took significant game snaps with Gunnell last season. The experience and depth at the position alone is enough for offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone to be confident in a fluid offense this season.
“I think we got a talented group at receiver,” Mazzone said. “Brenden Schooler coming in is really helping us. We got some young guys like [Johnson] and [Curry]. I think we finally have some depth there. Wolma is going to figure a lot more in the offense this year. Obviously you guys all know about Casteel and [Joiner] and [Cunningham] because you’ve seen them play … I think we finally have some depth there, so I’m really excited about them.”
Here’s how the rest of Arizona’s schedule plays out.
- Sept. 26 - vs. ASU
- Oct. 3 - at the University of Washington
- Oct. 10 - vs. the University of Colorado Boulder
- Oct. 17 - bye week
- Oct. 24 - vs. USC
- Oct. 31 - at the University of Utah
- Nov. 7 - at Oregon State University
- Nov. 14 - vs. the University of California, Berkeley
- Nov. 21 - vs. the University of Oregon
- Nov. 28 - at UCLA
- Dec. 5 - at Stanford University
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