- Ted Miller, ESPN Staff Writer
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Arizona beat UNLV 58-13 last year, and it's a 24-point favorite playing the Rebels at home on Friday. The odds are long that the Wildcats are going to lose.
But that's not what their opening game is about. It's about a potential big reveal at quarterback. It's about getting a glimpse of the present and the future with Anu Solomon -- a promising redshirt freshman who beat out a gaggle of high-profile transfers to win the starting job at quarterback.
Or maybe not. Although coach Rich Rodriguez said Solomon won the job because "he played the best over the last three weeks," he also seemed pretty determined not to hand over the keys to his offense without qualification.
"That doesn’t mean that he plays the whole game and that he will be the starter the rest of the season, but I also don’t want any quarterback to ever go in thinking, As soon as I make a mistake, I’m coming out," he said of his decision. "That’s not going to be the case, either, but I thought he deserved the right to start the first game. I’m confident that Anu will play well, and he will be the starter as long as he plays well and we win."
As ringing endorsements go, that's a light tap on a triangle.
Of course, that's the Rich Rod way. He's not trying to make it easy on Solomon because, as he often says, he wants him to "be comfortable being uncomfortable." Last year, he rode B.J. Denker hard throughout camp and well into the season. The end result was solid play from a guy who seemed overmatched by Pac-12 football a few months before.
As for whether we see Jesse Scroggins, Jerrard Randall or Connor Brewer, that remains to be seen. If the Wildcats are up big at the half, Rodriguez might want to get a look at the other guys. Or he might want Solomon to get as much game experience as possible.
"I decide during the game," Rodriguez said. "If the mistakes are minor and are correctable during the game, then he will stay in. If there are any major mistakes, then I may look to make a change. As long as a guy is playing well, then he will stay in the game."
It will be interesting to see how Solomon responds. Rodriguez often griped about his seeming lack of fire, but that even keel -- not unlike Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota's -- might benefit him during game-time pressure.
"The best attribute he carries is his composure," safety Jared Tevis said. "That will be big come game time. I think it’s in his personality and his character. He’s a pretty relaxed guy, and I think that’s where it comes from.”
Although Arizona's nonconference schedule appears weak at first glance, the Week 2 Thursday date at UTSA could prove tricky. For one, all road games are tough. Further, the Roadrunners are a veteran team that challenged Arizona last year, though the Wildcats prevailed 38-13. It will be a legit test for Solomon.
Or whatever combination of quarterbacks Rodriguez decides to go with at that point.