Arizona Football should look East for Future Schedules

Oct 21, 2017; Berkeley, CA, USA; Arizona Wildcats helmet sits on the grass in the game against the California Golden Bears during the second quarter at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 21, 2017; Berkeley, CA, USA; Arizona Wildcats helmet sits on the grass in the game against the California Golden Bears during the second quarter at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports /

Could a change to the Arizona Football scheduling philosophy be what it takes to work their way into better recruiting and on-field performance?

When looking at recent schedules, as well as previously announced future non-conference games for Arizona Football, there is a noticeable absence, and that’s the lack of traveling to the Eastern part of the country.

On only three occasions since 2006, Arizona has played a non-conference game East of the state of Texas. In 2010 they traveled to Toledo, in 2009 they ventured to Iowa, and in 2006 they went down to Death Valley to take on LSU.

Arizona Wildcats
Arizona Wildcats /

Arizona Wildcats

The fact that Arizona has largely bypassed the Southeastern states, which is a major hotbed for teams with Championship aspirations is head-scratching.

However, looking into the future, the Wildcats do head to Starkville to take on Mississippi State in 2023 but do not return east again until 2030 when they head to Blacksburg, VA to play Virginia Tech, and again in 2032 when they head down to Tuscaloosa to take on Alabama.

Future schedules are always basically written in pencil anyway, so things can and likely will change due to the landscape of college football moving forward.

Looking to a Familiar Conference in the AAC

No stranger to the American Athletic Conference, Arizona had recently completed a home and home with Houston, and partnering with this conference could be a way to break into the heart of Southeast football, without going up against the mighty SEC.

A school like USF could provide a great opportunity to play in one of the most talent-rich parts of the country for football in Tampa, which churns out major talent yearly. It would also give players a chance to play at an NFL venue in Raymond James Stadium, which of course is currently the home of Gronk, just adding more Wildcat ties to the mix.

Another prime target for Arizona could be just down the road in Orlando with the UCF Knights. Orlando would provide a very unique opportunity that could very well lead to a very respectable Wildcat presence in a game at UCF.

Arizona’s online partnership with Disney Aspire has allowed for Disney Cast Members to become Wildcats. With a growing student base in Central Florida thanks to Walt Disney World, this could not only provide a nice contingency of fans at the game but also benefit the University as a whole. And with the current state of recruiting, that would not be a bad thing for the Cats.

Don’t Sleep on the Sun Belt

Another conference that could provide a very interesting opportunity for the Wildcats, would be to look towards the Sun Belt Conference. Arizona could benefit by breaking into the Carolinas as well as Louisiana without having to face an LSU or Clemson.

With prior experience playing Louisiana Lafayette back in 2011, the Ragin’ Cajuns could be a familiar face to renew acquaintances with, and also break more into the Louisiana recruiting scene. With a team on the rise, they would for sure provide the quality that would allow Arizona to showcase what they are about even, without facing a Power Five program.

Another team that could add benefit Arizona, while also allowing the Cats to gain exposure in North Carolina, would be Appalachian State.

The Mountaineers have a quality program, and are a quality opponent, with a known track record that would look good in the eyes of potential recruits. It would allow for families of the potential recruits to see the program play closer to home, rather than flying to Tucson.

Another program that would allow for similar opportunities would be Coastal Carolina. A program on the rise, the Chanticleers are located in South Carolina, which is another hotbed recruiting area.

A Wider Recruiting Footprint Can Only Help

In looking at the programs as good potential fits for future games, I looked at programs that I feel could be seen as “winnable games”. I mean, let’s face it, all the kids want to do is win. Sure we could say try to schedule Florida, Miami, LSU, etc., but you first need to build up the foundation before we look to face those teams. Playing LSU and losing by 20+ wouldn’t exactly showcase anything good for the Wildcats.

And with our current games typically going toe-to-toe with the primetime games on the East Coast at 8:00 PM Eastern or even later, the Wildcats will need to get creative in attracting eyes to tune into their games.

To me, the easiest way to do that is by going to these hotbeds directly, and provide exposure. Start trying to sway the minds of recruits by offering that Power Five opportunity.

Additionally, it’s a benefit to the programs like Louisiana Lafayette, or UCF also, who don’t quite have that luxury of exposure. They continually need to run the table to get to those more premier bowls, so it benefits them playing more Power Five teams.

More. On Arizona Football Recruiting. light

Anyway, that’s just what I feel could benefit Arizona. The Wildcats were in the Fiesta Bowl just six years ago, and judging by the first couple weeks of the season, I feel they could break into the top half of the conference if they were to head East more!