UNLV host Arizona in their home opener on Saturday Sept. 7 at 10 p.m. ET and will be on the CBS Sports Network.
Coach: Rich Rodriguez (84-53, second year at Arizona)
2012 record: (8-5, 4-5 in Pac-12 South)
2012 season in review: This was the first year on new head coach Rich Rodriguez and his fast-paced attack that thrived at West Virginia yet inconsistent at Michigan thrived at Arizona. The team was seventh in total offense and No. 15 in scoring offense per game. While the offense put up numbers they were just above average as they went to the New Mexico Bowl where they needed a comeback in the last 90 seconds to defeat Nevada.
The Wildcats were led by Ka'Deem Karey who led the nation in rushing with 1,929 and quarterback Matt Scott led the Pac-12 with 301 yards per game, and that was also good to be 12th in the nation. The issue for Arizona obviously was not their offense, but it was their defense which gave up 499 total yards per game. That astonishing number was dead last in the Pac-12 and 122nd out of 124th nationally, so had their defense been just average Arizona could have had a special season.
Returning Offensive Starters:6
Returning Defensive Starters: 11
Key returning players: RB Ka'Deem Carey, WR David Richards, LB Jake Fischer, LB Marquis Flowers, CB Jonathan McKnight
2013 Strengths: Just by being in the second year of Rodriguez's system will be a huge strength, however Arizona will be without Scott under center. They also bring back Carey who bypassed the NFL Draft for another season in Tucson, so the offense will run through Carey to rack up the yards on the ground.
The defense returning all 11 starters from the 2012 season is a good thing because they have experience, but that same unit was one of the worst in the country. It is a double-edged sword because while they have experience yet it is bad experience, but again the hope for Arizona is that the unit will be better.
2013 Weaknesses: The quarterback position is up for grabs at this time and that could be an issue. There are three quarterbacks trying to land the starting job and they are B.J. Denker who backed up Scott last year, USC transfer -- by way of El Camino Junior College -- Jesse Scroggins and Louisiana Tech transfer Nick Isham. The job will be decided during fall camp, but with three players in the mix there could be an issue if it is not straightened out early on.
The defense could also be a liability despite returning all 11 starters they were one of the worst units in all of college football. Already mentioned above but even though they are returning their entire defensive unit it does not mean they will be any better, even though they probably will be.