At Pac-12 media days, the preseason poll got released with a number of interesting tidbits. The USC Trojans were picked to win the conference title for the first time since 2012 (and looking for the first conference title since 2008) and three different teams in the Pac-12 South received votes for the top spot. The biggest surprise, however, is that the Arizona Wildcats, defending Pac-12 South Division champ, were completely overlooked and picked fourth in the South while receiving no first place votes.
Rich Rodriguez has wasted no time in turning around the Wildcats and took his team to the conference title game in just his third season at the helm. The team finished the season 10-4, just the second 10-win season in program history, with a bid to the Fiesta Bowl, the third major-bowl bid in school history. The upward trend of the team under Rodriguez has been undeniable.
That trend has an excellent chance to continue with the wealth of returning talent in Tucson. Quarterback Anu Sololmon emerged as a perfect fit in Rodriguez’s system in 2014 and stepped up as leader for the Wildcats. He’s surrounded by great offensive weapons like running back Nick Wilson, who broke out with 1,375 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns as a freshman in 2014, and 1,000-yard receiver Cayleb Jones. Defensively, Arizona has one of the best defensive players in the nation with linebacker Scooby Wright.
With the way that the team has improved each year under Rodriguez and the amount of returning talent on both sides of the ball, it is mind-boggling that the Wildcats slipped so far in the Pac-12 preseason poll. Will they be able to rise to the top of the division and defy expectations again?