The Lobos take on their second non conference opponent from a BCS conference in the Arizona Wildcats. Arizona has yet to take the next leap to excellence with Mik e Stoops as head coach, and in his previous four years the Wildcats have a record of 17-29 and his best record was 6-6. This has to be the make or break year for Stoops to see if he can turn Arizona into at least a bowl team in Tucson. This would be the the last non conference game, and the toughest for Arizona, prior to this game the play two home games agaisnt Toledo and Idaho before making the trip to New Mexico. The Wildcats should be 2-0 and have their team rolling with confidence.
Offense: The star on the offense is Willie Tuitama who is a Senior and has
lived up to most of the promise, but the wins have yet to come his way. Last year Tuitama had 3,683 yards passing, 28 touchdowns, and 12 picks. Also, Tuitama is on the Davey O'Brien watch list. If Arizona finishes in the upper tier of the conference standings, look for Tuitama to challenge for Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year honors, and also if he stays injury free which last year was his first.
The Wildcats are returning ten offensive starters, so their offense should improve and be able to score points on most teams in the Pac-10. To do that the running game must improve, becasue last season Arizona rushed for 961 yards per game. That total not only ranked last in the Pac-10 by more than 400 yards, six different individual players rushed for more yards, including a quarterback, Washington's Jake Locker
Sophomore Nic Grigsby should be the main back, last year he had 704 yards and two scores and also caught 35 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns. The running game is key to make this spread option work effectively. If they can improve this at any rate then Arizona should be able to get to a bowl game this year.
Their receiving corp should be one of the best in the country and that should make their passing game even more potent then last year. They return four wide receivers that caught at least 20 passes last season, including All-Pac-10 candidate Mike Thomas. The senior hauled in 83 passes for 1,038 yards and 11 scores in 2007, so the Lobos better be aware of the passing game.
Obviously this is their strength, but unless the running game gets some teeth the Wildcats will be average at best.
Defense: The defense which was suppose to be the star of the team, but between 2006 and 2007 the defense went south in a hurry and gave up 26.8 per game, but some how only gave up 20 to USC. The defense only brings back three starters, but two of those are safties, Cam Nelson and Nate Ness, which should be the best of the defense.
The front seven was terrible last year, even though there were three players drafted in the NFL. The whole front will be a work in progress, and Stoops who is considered a great defensive mind should be able to get this unit in shape. The defensive ends do have experience with players who played significant time with Johnathan Turner and sophomore Ricky Elmore who both played in all twelve games. The New Mexico offense will be the toughest Arizona sees in the young season, and could cause trouble for Arizona.
Early Prediction: I hate to be a homer for the league, but the facts are proof with New Mexico having their strength in running back Rodney Ferguson going against the weakness of Arizona in their front seven. Last year New Mexico won 29-27 on the road, and also consider that New Mexico will be playing their third straight home game and against tough competition by playing TCU and Texas A&M. Look for New Mexico to pull this out at home in a similar game like last year.