Arizona’s 2013 regular-season football schedule has two noticeable omissions with conference teams not playing the round-robin format familiar during the Pac-10 years.
Oregon State and Stanford, two programs which have dominated the Wildcats since 1999, will not play Arizona unless they meet the UA in the Pac-12 championship game. The Beavers and Cardinal are a combined 21-5 against Arizona since 1999, the year after the Wildcats finished 12-1 under Dick Tomey.
The Beavers are 12-2 against the Wildcats in that span. The Cardinal is 9-3.
Replacing them on the schedule this year and next are Cal and Washington State, programs that are a combined 9-12 against the Wildcats since 1999. Oregon State and Stanford beat the UA last year and played in bowl games. Cal and Washington State each finished 3-9.
Three of the better coaches who have faced Arizona — Mike Riley, David Shaw and Chip Kelly (who left Oregon for the Philadelphia Eagles) are not on the schedule in 2013.
With the changes in schedules and opponents, what five games can Arizona look forward to the most?
1. Oregon (Nov. 23 at Arizona Stadium)
Although Kelly is gone, the Ducks feature the spectacular DeAnthony Thomas at running back and efficient quarterback Marcus Mariota. ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. rates Thomas as the best running back prospect for next year’s NFL draft, two spots ahead of Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey. No question about it: This is a game Carey has circled on his calendar. Oregon is 7-1 against the UA in Tucson and 12-2 overall since 1999.
2. UCLA (Nov. 9 at Arizona Stadium)
The Wildcats suffered one of their most humbling defeats in the program’s history last year to UCLA. The 66-10 loss included Matt Scott throwing for a season-low 124 yards. He suffered a concussion and linebacker Hank Hobson was carted off the field after collapsing. UCLA features redshirt sophomore quarterback Brett Hundley Jr., who will play at the stadium where he watched his father — former UA running back Brett Hundley — play in the early 1980s. Arizona has beaten UCLA four consecutive times at Arizona Stadium by an average score of 40.3 to 16.5.
3. USC (Oct. 10 at the L.A. Coliseum)
It will be interesting to see if Lane Kiffin will be coaching in this game for USC. Some preseason banter includes Kiffin not lasting the entire season, similar to when athletic director Pat Haden canned basketball coach Kevin O’Neill in mid-season. The Trojans, featuring Heisman hopeful Marqise Lee at wide receiver, should be in decent shape, however, hosting Washington State, Boston College and Utah State and playing at Hawaii and ASU before facing Arizona. Perhaps a loss to the Wildcats will be the last straw for Kiffin. The UA has been competitive against USC in L.A. in the last three meetings there, winning in 2009 and losing by only a touchdown in 2007 and 2011.
4. ASU (Nov. 30 at Sun Devil Stadium)
The rivalry has taken a peculiar twist with the visiting team winning each of the last four games. Rich Rodriguez has a score to settle against ASU coach Todd Graham, who was once an assistant under Rodriguez at West Virginia. No love lost exists between the two, especially after Graham’s Sun Devils pulled off the upset win in Tucson last season. Will Sutton, who had two tackles for lost yardage against Arizona, returns for ASU.
5. California (Nov. 2 at Memorial Stadium, Berkeley, Calif.)
Former UA offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes faces his former program for the first time. With Dykes three years removed from the program, he is not familiar with most of the Wildcats. He is responsible, however, for making Arizona a relevant passing team for the first time in the Pac-10 era. The Golden Bears will likely struggle early in the season adapting to Dykes’ schemes, most notably at the untested quarterback position. This game should be a high-scoring affair, however, nine games into the season.
Javier Morales, a former Arizona Press Club award winner, is the editor, publisher and writer for WILDABOUTAZCATS.net. He also writes blogs for Lindy’s College Sports and TucsonCitizen.com. Make sure to follow Morales’ 100 Days Until Kickoff 2013 countdown series at WILDABOUTAZCATS.net.