OPPOSING COACH'S TAKE
With Khalil Tate under center, they have a running back playing quarterback. His speed in the open field sets him apart—he can turn a five-yard play into a 50-yard gain—and his arm is strong and consistent enough to keep you honest on the back end. This guy is as talented as Johnny Manziel.... The offense is going to be special, but it's not a one-man show: Running back J.J. TAYLOR is a game-breaker too. Ultimately their success is going to be dictated by their defense. They were so young last year, starting five freshmen, and the unit still has a lot of growing up to do. Getting pressure on the quarterback was something they struggled with, and they'll need to get better in that regard. Defensive end Kylan Wilborn is the guy to watch—he's got big upside, and linebackers Tony Fields and Colin Schooler will also be key.... Overall they don't have a lot of size, so they'll have to make do with extra guys in the box, which will put pressure on their secondary. The Pac-12 is a passing league, and they're going to be vulnerable to big plays.... There are going to be a lot of shootouts in the desert. If the defense can keep them in games, they're a real sleeper for the conference title.
BY THE NUMBERS
Points per game scored by the Arizona offense, an improvement of 16.5 over 2016.
Points allowed by the Wildcats defense in their seven wins.
A favorable schedule, a Heisman candidate at quarterback and a new coach will add up to the team's first Pac-12 title game appearance.
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In 2012 and '13, KEVIN SUMLIN revitalized Texas A&M with Johnny Manziel running the offense, but without Manziel the Aggies floundered, and Sumlin was fired last fall. Now, with junior Khalil Tate at QB, Sumlin has one of the nation's most electric offenses, but he'll need a lot more than highlight-reel moments to succeed. In the SEC, Sumlin struggled partly because A&M couldn't stop the run; in Tucson he inherits a young D that finished 10th in the Pac-12 and ninth in rushing yardage. Most important, the 54-year-old will have to revitalize the Wildcats' recruiting—his predecessor of six seasons, Rich Rodriguez, failed to bring in elite talent outside of Tate.
@ HOUSTON (20) [BIGGEST GAME][SI RANKINGS]
@ OREGON STATE
USC [KEY MATCHUP]
FRIDAY, OCT. 12
OREGON [KEY MATCHUP]
FRI., NOV. 2
@ WASHINGTON STATE