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The last couple football seasons have been pretty fun in the Old Pueblo.

Rich Rodriguez has led the Wildcats to consecutive eight-win seasons and back-to-back bowl victories, a feat that hasn't been done since 1997-98. Granted, winning the Gildan New Mexico Bowl and AdvoCare V100 Bowl are not exactly program-defining moments, but for Arizona Football, it's a two-year stretch that has provided hope that the future will be much, much brighter.

Entering Year 3 of the RichRod era, the Wildcats are without all-time leading rusher Ka'Deem Carey, who left for the NFL, and QB B.J. Denker, who graduated. They're also missing a few players from what was a vastly improved defense, meaning there are some holes to fill.

Whether or not they'll be able to fill them, especially prior to the Aug. 29 opener vs. UNLV, will go a long way toward determining if the Wildcats' next step is forward or backward.

Various publications are taking their guesses, and while they provide great coverage, they're also a bit expensive. So out of kindness, here's a sampling of what is being said about the Arizona Wildcats.




Athlon Sports

National Preseason Ranking: 45

Record Projection: 7-5 (4-5 in Pac-12)

Pac-12 Projection: 4th place, Pac-12 South

Bowl Projection: Las Vegas Bowl vs. Boise State


First Team All-Pac-12: T Mickey Baucus

Second Team All-Pac-12: WR Austin Hill


• Ranked 5th-best WR/TE unit in the nation

• Player likely to emerge in QB battle: Jesse Scroggins

• Ranked 6th-best Pac-12 recruiting class


The Final Analysis: Rodriguez has twin 8-5 seasons in two years at Arizona, and he has more Pac-12-ready players on the roster for Year 3. The uncertainty at quarterback hovers over the entire operation, but the strengths at receiver and on the offensive line create an optimistic feeling about another winning season. The Wildcats are faster and deeper on defense. The schedule -- four winnable games to open the season -- sets up favorably.



Sporting News

National Preseason Ranking: --

Record Projection: --

Pac-12 Projection: 4th place, Pac-12 South

Bowl Projection: Sun Bowl vs. Georgia Tech


• Ranked 6th-best Pac-12 recruiting class

• WR Austin Hill rated with the "best hands" in the conference: "The Wildcats missed his big (6-3) receiving range when an ACL tear kept him out last season."

• QB Connor Brewer a "transfer to watch" because he, "clearly has the most talent, but must learn the nuances of Rich Rodriguez's spread-option offense."


The Bottom Line: Transitions at so many key spots suggest the Wildcats aren't ready to make another leap forward just yet. But Arizona won't have a tough test until Oct. 2 at Oregon.



Lindy's Sports

National Preseason Ranking: #42

Record Projection: --

Pac-12 Projection: 4th place, Pac-12 South

Bowl Projection: --


Second Team All-Pac-12: WR AUstin Hill, OL Mickey Baucus

Third Team All-Pac-12: AP DaVonte' Neal, LB Scooby Wright, DB Jared Tevis


• Ranked 6th-best Pac-12 recruiting class

• Best Hands in Pac-12: WR Austin Hill

• CB Cameron Denson one of the Pac-12's top 20 incoming recruits as well as one of the conference's Newcomers of the Year.

• WR Austin Hill one of top "Comeback Players." Says Athlon: "Biletnikoff semifinalist in 2012 suffered his injury late in 2013 spring camp, forcing him to return as a senior in a suddenly deep and dangerous Arizona receiving corps.

• WR Austin Hill ranked as the 13th-best WR in the nation

• Has the No. 2 ranked WR unit in the nation


Overview: Rodriguez has pieced together consecutive eight-win seasons from a depleted roster. Now, perhaps, the fun really begins. Bolstered by new facilities that have proven to be a recruiting boon, UA has playmakers and depth emerging throughout the roster. The 2014 season might be more of the same, victory-wise, but signs point to a bigger 2015 and beyond.

Adam Green, Web Content Editor - ArizonaSports.com

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