#32 Arizona 2018 Football Preview

Arizona Wildcats
Overall Rank: #32
#5 Pac-12
 Arizona Logo
Arizona begins a new era under Coach Kevin Sumlin. He comes to the Wildcats after a decent, although not spectacular run with Texas A&M. Coach Sumlin has guided some of the most explosive offenses in college football history and the expectations are that this offense will be explosive from day one.
2017 Record: 7-6, 5-4
2017 Bowl: Foster Farms Bowl vs. Purdue (L 35-38)
Coach: Kevin Sumlin (0-0 at Arizona, 86-43 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Noel Mazzone
Defensive Coordinator: Marcel Yates
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Khalil Tate, QB, 1,411 yards
Passing: Khalil Tate, QB, 1,591 yards
Receiving: Tony Ellison, WR, 598 yards
Tackles: Tony Fields, LB, 104
Sacks: Kylan Wilborn, LB, 7.5
Interceptions: Lorenzo Burnes, CB, 5
Other Key Returnees: RB J.J. Taylor, WR Shun Brown, OL Nathan Eldridge, LB Colin Schooler, S Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, S Scott Young, CB Jace Whittaker
Key Losses: RB Nick Wilson, QB Brandon Dawkins, WR Tyrell Johnson, LB Dane Cruikshank
The Wildcats had the fifth best scoring offense in the nation last year, tallying 41.3 points per game. Much of that was due to the stellar play of Khalil Tate. The junior signal caller threw for 1,591 yards and 14 touchdowns and ran for 1,411 yards and a dozen scores. Tate is one of the most exciting players in the country, but now he will be asked to use his strong arm to make more difficult throws. Tate is obviously dangerous even when just heaving the ball down field or making quick throws to keep the defense honest, but he could be a Heisman contender with more consistency. There is experience at receiver with Tony Ellison and Shun Brown leading the way. The ground game is dominated by Tate, but J.J. Taylor is a quality back who ran for 847 yards as a freshman. He could see an even bigger role as a sophomore.
Arizona’s defense was not particularly good last season, but with nine starters returning and a lot of promising young talent, there are high hopes that the new regime can mold this group into a productive unit. The line is getting bigger with players like junior college transfer P.J. Johnson entering into the mix. At linebacker, Arizona returns three starters who were freshmen last season. Kylan Wilborn is the pass rusher of the bunch. He led the Wildcats with 7.5 sacks in 2017. Tony Fields led the team with 104 tackles and middle linebacker Colin Schooler added 95. If those three build off their superb freshmen seasons, this Arizona defense could be much better. There is experience in the secondary with seniors Jace Whittaker and Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles joining sophomores Lorenzo Burns and Scottie Young.
The Bottom Line:
This will be an interesting season in Tucson. Arizona went out and made a good coaching hire and bring back more than enough talent to compete for a Pac-12 title. If all the pieces on the field and on the sidelines come together, this could be an impressive campaign. Perhaps the biggest game of the season comes on September 29th when Arizona hosts USC. Two weeks later a trip to Utah could also have South Division title implications.
Projected Bowl: Foster Farms Bowl
2017 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 309.3 (3rd in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 180.2 (100, 12)
Total Offense: 489.5 (12, 1)
Scoring Offense: 41.3 (5, 1)
Rushing Defense: 185.1 (85, 9)
Pass Defense: 286.1 (123, 12)
Total Defense: 471.2 (118, 10)
Scoring Defense: 34.4 (108, 10)
Turnover Margin: 0.23 (46, 4)
Sacks: 2.38 (38, 6)
Sacks Allowed: 1.46 (25, 2)