What’s the vibe around the program with new head coach Jedd Fisch?
Fisch’s hiring was met with a lot of skepticism because he was a relatively unknown NFL assistant with zero head coaching experience, but he has pressed all the right buttons since then. He has gotten the alumni involved, landed several quality recruits and transfers (many from Arizona), and has put a huge emphasis on connecting with the community and restoring the tradition of the program. That includes bringing back the Desert Swarm uniforms that are universally loved by the UA fanbase. It remains to be seen if these things will actually translate into wins, but there’s an energy and optimism around the program that has been missing for years.
Arizona is going with a two-QB system — was that expected, and what are your expectations for Arizona’s QBs?
Most of the people who cover the team on a regular basis expected Gunner Cruz to be named the one and only starter, so the two-quarterback system does come as a surprise. However, it’s not like Cruz was far and away better than the rest of the quarterbacks in fall camp. Fisch was frustrated by the lack of separation. Using Cruz and Plummer in a game setting might be what it finally takes to discern which QB is better. Either way, QB play is not expected to be a strength of this team. Fisch repeatedly said that he was going to start the guy who could execute and limit mistakes. Explosive plays would be a bonus.
What are Arizona’s strengths?
Uh, that remains to be seen. Arizona was terrible in every facet of the game except punting and place kicking last season. The biggest difference you might see this year is a defense that can actually create turnovers and negative plays. The Wildcats were conservative under Kevin Sumlin, often rushing three or four. Under new defensive coordinator Don Brown, they are going to bring the heat—even if it means getting burned for big plays every now and then. Arizona’s running game could wind up being pretty good too. They return their entire offensive line and always have solid running backs. The winning formula for Arizona this season will be pairing an opportunistic defense with an offense that doesn’t shoot itself in the foot.
What are Arizona’s weaknesses?
Potentially everything. There’s a reason this team’s over/under win total is set at 2.5. While the new coaching staff has done a great job injecting some life into the program, there’s still an understanding that this will be a multi-year rebuild.
Arizona was picked to finish last in the Pac-12. Do you expect them to be better than that?
No, but this BYU game could set the tone for a surprise season. After BYU, Arizona plays San Diego State and NAU at home. If Arizona can beat BYU, there’s a good chance they start 3-0 and enter Pac-12 play with the momentum they need to overachieve.
What worries you most about BYU?
They are probably more talented in every area of the game and, perhaps most important of all, they know how to win games. Arizona has lost 12 in a row dating back to 2019. The moment things start to go bad, that here-we-go-again feeling sinks in.
What is your prediction for this game?
I think BYU wins but Arizona comes out motivated, starts hot, and at least covers the spread. 27-20 BYU.