Nonconference primer: Arizona

June, 18, 2013
6/18/13
7:00
PM ET
Today we start a new series looking at each team's nonconference opponents in 2013.

ARIZONA

Northern Arizona, Aug. 30
  • Coach: Jerome Souers (84-85), 16th year
  • 2012 record: 8-3, 6-2 Big Sky
  • Returning starters: nine offense, nine defense
  • Offensive headliner: Running back Zach Bauman rushed for 1,182 yards (5.3 YPC) with nine touchdowns. He also caught 34 balls for 216 yards.
  • Defensive headliner: Cornerback Anders Battle broke up six passes, had one interception and notched 64 tackles.
  • The skinny: The Lumberjacks have to break in a new quarterback after the departure of two-year starter Cary Grossart, who threw for 221.9 yards per game and tossed 17 touchdowns. Head coach Jerome Souers thinks this might be the best secondary the school has ever had. They were pasted by ASU last season, 63-6, but they did beat UNLV -- which also appears on the Wildcats' nonconference slate.
at UNLV, Sept. 7
  • Coach: Bobby Hauck (6-32), fourth year
  • 2012 record: 2-11, 2-6 Mountain West
  • Returning starters: nine offense, nine defense
  • Offensive headliner: Running back Tim Cornett is the first UNLV player to lead the Rebels in rushing for three straight years since the 70s. Last year he ran for 1,232 yards and seven touchdowns.
  • Defensive headliner: Linebacker Tim Hasson was second on the team last year with 76 stops and five tackles for a loss.
  • The skinny: The Rebels boast more returners than any team in the Mountain West and have a combined 250 starts -- more than any team in college football. Sophomore quarterback Nick Sherry was off to a promising start before injuries slowed him in 2012. Though still short on seniors, Hauck has his most experienced squad since taking over.
UTSA, Sept. 14
  • Coach: Larry Coker (12-10), third year
  • 2012 record: 8-4, 3-3 WAC (10/8)
  • Offensive headliner: With the exception of missing two games because of injury, dual-threat quarterback Eric Soza has been the only QB UTSA has ever known. He tossed 20 touchdowns last year to just three interceptions, averaging 208.5 yards in the air while also rushing for 364 yards and six scores.
  • Defensive headliner: Linebacker Steven Kurfehs is a hybrid player who also saw time at safety last season. He can stop the run, defend the pass and he led the team in sacks last season.
  • The skinny: In just its third year of existence, UTSA's football program has exceeded expectations. The Roadrunners were one-and-done in the WAC, moving to Conference USA this year. They have one more season of transition into NCAA Division I and will be full-fledged (including bowl eligibility) in 2014. The 2013 schedule is very ambitious for a program still in its infancy.
Thoughts

Arizona has one of the softest (perhaps the softest) nonconference schedule in college football. The only potential threat here is UTSA. Don't be fooled by its youth as a program. Coker obviously knows what he's doing and there is a bunch of continuity on this team. The Wildcats are the superior team -- however UTSA shouldn't be overlooked. NAU and UNLV should be good test cases as Rich Rodriguez is expected to substitute quarterbacks liberally while he tries to settle on his starter. And with all of that said, there is absolutely no reason why Arizona shouldn't start the season 3-0 before going into its bye week and then a trip to Washington to kick off league play.

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