The Wildcats schedule is brutal through the first five games. Fortunately for Mike Stoops and his staff, the upcoming games are much, much easier than the murder's row of teams they'll face early in the season. Let's take a look at those matchups:
@ Oregon State Beavers - Saturday, October 8, TBD
This will be the first Pac-12 game where Arizona will be the favorites. Junior quarterback Ryan Katz made strides last season, but with a questionable offensive line and only one true go-to receiver -- James Rodgers -- it could be a long season. Star running back Jacquizz Rodgers is gone and it is unclear who will get the majority of the reps.
The Beavers will also be a little questionable on the defensive end of the field. Only four starters return on a unit that struggled last season. It will not be an easy victory in Corvallis, but a loss to Oregon State would be the first true upset of the year for the Wildcats.
UCLA Bruins - Thursday, October 20, 6pm
A Thursday night game that will be a national broadcast on ESPN, this will be a big game for the Wildcats. Similar to the Oregon State game the previous week, this is a game where the Cats should be pretty heavy favorites. Despite always recruiting well, UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel has been unable to get results on the field and his job is probably in jeopardy if he does not make a bowl game.
The Bruins do not have a starting quarterback at the moments and have questions all along the offensive line. The run game should be strong, but not enough to carry the team down the field consistently. Arizona's offense should be able to move the football against a weak secondary in route to a fairly easy victory.
@ Washington Huskies - Saturday, October 29, TBD
The Huskies go into 2011 as a team with more questions than answers both offensively and defensively. Star quarterback Jack Locker is gone to the NFL and he will be replaced by Keith Price, who has never started a game. Most of his targets also remain unproven, though head coach Steve Sarkisian has been able to assemble strong recruiting classes to help build up the program.
Defensively, while UW remains solid in the secondary, their front seven was hit hard by the running game and coverage on short-yardage situations was an issue. That will have to improve if they hope to win against the Wildcats. Arizona typically struggles when they travel north to Seattle, but this is also a game they should take with relative ease.
Utah Utes - Saturday, November 5, TBD
Ah, our first new member of the Pac-12. Welcome to the big times, you guys.
Utah is rumored to have scrapped their playbook from previous seasons now that they have joined the new conference and will go with a more traditional offense instead of the spread they implemented the last few seasons. Junior quarterback Jordan Wynn had a solid campaign last season and will look to build from that. The Utes lost their two top-running backs and No. 1 receiver and they will need others to step up to fill the voids on offense.
While the defense is never too strong, Utah seemingly always finds a way to hold opposing offenses down until their West Coast attack can go to work. This will be a big battle at Arizona Stadium and the Wildcats need to win if they hope to win the North.
@ Colorado Buffaloes - Saturday, November 12, TBD
Hey! It's our other newest conference mate!
The Buffaloes are probably happy to be out of the Big 12. A program that has been supposed to break out for the last decade or so has done anything but that, though they did play better after the firing of Dan Hawkins. Current head coach Jon Embree will look to build on a solid second half of the 2010 season, though he does not have much to work with.
Quarterback Tyler Hansen, a senior, had a high completion rate last season at 68 percent, though most of these came on slants and screen passes. The main weapon on offense, running back Rodney Stewart, runs the football with the best of them, though injuries have plagued the senior in the past.
The defense projects to be among the worst in the conference and will ultimately keep the Buffaloes out of most game. Despite having to travel to Colorado for the first time, the Wildcats should be able to bring home the victory.
@ Arizona State Sun Devils - Saturday, November 19, TBD
The Wildcats will wrap their Pac-12 season up in Tempe as they take on the Sun Devils and Alex Zendejas in a game that could have serious implications on the conference title game.
The Devils are a team with high expectations this upcoming year. Despite suffering multiple injuries in training camp, ASU could make some noise, especially with nearly every starter back from last season. The offense's production will hinge on Brock Osweiler's arm, and if his production after becoming the full-time starter last season is any indication, the Sun Devils will be in good hands.
The defense projects to be one of the strongest in the conference and ASU will lean on it all year long. It remains to be seen if all of the potential and hype will translate to the field, though it is for certain that the battle between the two rivals will have big implications on the conference race.
Louisiana-Lafayette - Saturday, November 26, TBD
Well, at least the Wildcats won't end the regular season with a loss.
I honestly cannot tell you how Louisiana-Lafayette was scheduled for senior night, but it happened. Arizona should win by a lot.
Stay tuned to SB Nation Arizona for a complete preview of the Wildcats upcoming football season. For more coverage of the Cats, be sure to check out AZ Desert Swarm.