College Football Betting: Does Arizona’s Offense Pick Up With Tate On The Bench?
Heading into the season, the Arizona Wildcats were expected to contend for the PAC-12 South title. The main reason was simple: Quarterback Khalil Tate was as close to being unstoppable as any player in the country. In 2017, Tate accounted for over 3,000 yards of total offense at a ridiculous 9.0 yards per play. He thrived in Rich Rodriguez’s system and was pegged to do the same under Kevin Sumlin. But Sumlin had different ideas, most notably trying to keep Tate healthy by making him more of a tradition pocket passer. In Week 1, Tate completed only 50% of his passes for 197 yards and rushed eight times for 14 yards. The Wildcats lost at home to BYU as double-digit favorites, 28-23. The following week, Tate tweaked his ankle in a 45-18 blowout loss to Houston; an injury that hindered him even more than Sumlin’s newly implemented scheme. Fast forward to Week 8 and the Wildcats sit 3-4 and are in danger of missing the postseason.
There are a number of things to blame for Arizona’s struggles. Sumlin’s overhaul of Rich Rod’s system which finished 12th in total offense a year ago is a start. There’s also the hiring of offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone who has made a career out of being just good to keep getting jobs but never good enough to take an offense to new heights. And then of course Tate’s bum ankle. Few teams would have stuck with Tate as long as they did but Arizona finally made the decision to put him on the bench with the hope he can heal and his replacement will offer a spark. Ironically, Arizona’s new starting quarter is Rodriguez’s son, Rhett who came in and threw for 226 yards and a touchdown in a 42-10 loss to Utah. Rodriguez is billed as being a more traditional passer and his teammates recently gave the obligatory “he’s got tons of ability, we’ll be fine” speech.
For bettors, the switch offers two schools of thought: A healthy backup is bound to be more productive than a half speed Tate. Or, the fact that they didn’t make the move sooner suggests Rodriguez isn’t very good. I know the Wildcats would love to have former starter Brandon Dawkins right now. Dawkins bailed to Indiana once Tate took over but failed to earn the starting job for the Hoosiers and is currently out of football. I also know that UCLA laying -8 (opened -5) is a very rich point spread. The Bruins looked solid in a loss to Washington and posted a somewhat fraudulent (+5 turnovers) 37-7 win over California. Their strength of schedule is a selling point but Chip Kelly’s squad is still incredibly limited. Considering how poor Tate played, I find it hard to believe Arizona’s offense can get much worse than the 376.8 ypg and 5.52 ypp it’s averaged through four PAC-12 games. Addition by subtraction? I’ll be eager to find out come Saturday.