The Arizona football team begins its 2013 season against Northern Arizona at Arizona Stadium on Aug. 30, which is 52 days away. From now until then, this Web site will count down the days with facts about the Wildcats, their players, coaching staff and opponents. This is not a ranking, only a list of 100 facts and observances related to the 2013 Arizona football team and coach Rich Rodriguez.
PAC-12 SOUTHERN DIVISION PREDICTIONS
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UCLA is a consensus choice, among five of the most significant preseason publications, to be a three-time Pac-12 Southern Division champion with a tight race between ASU and USC for second place.
Arizona is a consensus pick to finish fourth in the league.
USA Today is the most indecisive of the publications, picking ASU and USC to tie for second and Arizona and Utah to be deadlocked at No. 4. Colorado is the only unanimous choice, finishing last in every poll.
The Wildcats’ highest predicted finish is third place by The Sporting News (TSN), which projects bad things for USC coach Lane Kiffin. The Trojans are slated to finish fourth by the publication. If that happens, expect USC to have a new coach in 2014.
TSN takes into account Arizona’s non-conference schedule that includes NAU, UNLV and Texas-San Antonio for allowing Rich Rodriguez to break in the UA’s new quarterback.
“If Arizona figures things out by the time it gets to USC on Oct. 10 — and beyond — it could land in a better bowl game,” TSN writes about the Wildcats, who beat Nevada 49-48 in the New Mexico Bowl last December.
TSN is critical of USC’s standing after the Trojans were a preseason No. 1 team last year.
“The Trojans are now … just another team,” TSN writes. “Quarterback Matt Barkley is gone, the secondary returns just one starter, and the roster is still weakened by NCAA sanctions.
“Coach Lane Kiffin shook up his staff and the Trojans held some unusually physical spring practices, leading to a number of key injuries.”
Phil Steele has a different view of the Trojans, ranking them No. 6 in the country and top choice for the Pac-12 Southern Division title. Steele likes USC’s overall talent and the fact the Trojans do not play Oregon and get Stanford at home.
“(USC) will be under the radar and surprise a lot of people this year,” Steele writes.
UCLA is picked to win the division by Lindy’s, TSN and USA Today. ASU gets the nod from Athlon.
“You can make a case for any of the top four teams in the Pac-12 South,” Steven Lassan of Athlon writes. “Ultimately, we picked Arizona State because the Sun Devils have the fewest issues heading into the 2013 season.
“They are set at quarterback with Taylor Kelly, solid at running back and on the offensive line, and the defense, led by Will Sutton, should be strong once again. And it doesn’t hurt that Arizona State hosts USC and Arizona and doesn’t play Oregon, our pick to the win the Pac-12 North.”
ASU, however, must play at Stanford and UCLA. After opening at home against Sacramento State, the Sun Devils have a difficult early four-game stretch hosting Wisconsin, playing at Stanford, hosting USC and playing Notre Dame in Arlington, Texas. If ASU starts at least 3-2 with a win over Stanford or USC, it could be in store for a special season.
Lindy’s places ASU third behind UCLA and USC.
Lindy’s takes into account ASU’s difficult early schedule, which could derail the Sun Devils’ confidence.
“ASU fans should know exactly where the team stands long before Halloween,” Lindy’s writes.
Lindy’s writer Bob Condotta believes UCLA is “far from a comfortable perch” atop the the division. The Bruins have one of the league’s best quarterbacks (sophomore Brett Hundley) and linebackers (Anthony Barr), but their secondary struggled and welcomes three new starters.
“USC has as many highly-touted signees on its roster as anyone in the nation,” Condotta writes. “Arizona State, on the rebound under second-year coach Todd Graham, could also contend.
“Arizona, in its second year under Rich Rodriguez, also will be dangerous, as long as the Wildcats find a quarterback.”
The best No. 52 to wear the Arizona jersey, according to TucsonCitizen.com’s Anthony Gimino is
Joe Tofflemire (1985-88), the best center in the program’s history. He was an All-American and three-time All-Pac-10 selection. He played six years for Seattle in the NFL.
WILDABOUTAZCATS.net publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes blogs for Lindy’s College Sports, TucsonCitizen.com and Sports Illustrated-sponsored site ZonaZealots.com.