It’s a new day for the Arizona Wildcats football team, which kicks off its first season under head coach Jedd Fisch in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
Legal sports betting in Arizona isn’t scheduled to start until Sept. 9 in time for NFL betting, though daily fantasy sports contests kicked off in the state last Saturday. Arizona Wildcats betting should be available in time for the next game.
Most Arizona betting apps have BYU as a 12.5-point favorite (-105) and the over/under at 54. Although you can’t place a bet just yet you can check out the odds and game information on BetMGM Arizona, WynnBet Arizona, Caesars Arizona, DraftKings Arizona and FanDuel Arizona.
Facing Long Season Odds
The Wildcats enter the 2021 season with the longest shot at winning the Pac-12 championship, with Bet365 giving Arizona +7500 odds, while Caesars gives them a +50000 shot at winning the 2021 College Football Playoff.
Fisch and company also face long odds at beating the Cougars at Allegiant Stadium Saturday, with DraftKings, BetMGM, Unibet, Pointsbet and BetRivers all listing the Wildcats as 12.5-point underdogs, while FanDuel Sportsbook has Arizona at +11.5.
The Wildcats and Cougars kick off at 7:30 p.m. Arizona time (10:30 p.m. EST), with ESPN carrying the contest nationally.
Arizona enters Saturday’s season opener on a 12-game losing streak, dating to Oct. 5, 2019, when the Wildcats beat Colorado in Boulder, 35-30.
The Wildcats went 0-5 in a COVID-19-shortened 2020 season that included a 70-7 loss to Arizona State in the Territorial Cup.
That loss sealed then-head coach Kevin Sumlin’s fate, with Arizona AD Dave Heeke firing the former Houston and Texas A&M head coach during the offseason.
Enter the New Guy
Fisch comes to Tucson after a 20-plus-year run as an assistant coach in college and the NFL, most recently serving as the quarterbacks coach of the New England Patriots in 2020.
The new head coach announced this week that QBs would split reps, with Washington State transfer Gunner Cruz and freshman Will Plummer seeing action against BYU Saturday.
Plummer is the Wildcats’ leading returning passer, throwing for 388 yards on 80 attempts in 2020.
Cruz is a redshirt freshman who threw for more than 9,000 yards in three seasons with Casteel High School in Queen Creek, guiding the school to a 3A state title in 2017.
The plan, according to Fisch, is for Cruz to take the field during the team’s opening drive against the Cougars.
From there, the team could go with either signal-caller, depending on how Cruz fares in his first contest sporting the cardinal and navy blue.
“I’m not bound to put another person in if we have two touchdown drives in a row,” Fisch told reporters. “Call it a champagne problem.”
A BYU Problem
The Wildcats and Cougars have been regular foes over the years, dating to when both were members of the Western Athletic Conference.
Arizona leads the all-time series between the two programs, 12-11-1, though the Wildcats have lost their last two games against the Cougars, 28-23 (2018) and 18-16 (2016).
The Cougars are led by sixth-year head coach Kalani Sitake, who has posted a 38-26 record since returning to Provo in 2016.
The former BYU fullback led the Cougars to an 11-1 record and a win in the Boca Raton Bowl a year ago, posting the program’s most wins in a season since going 11-2 in 2009.
Sitake and company are pressed with replacing dynamic quarterback Zach Wilson, who was drafted by the New York Jets in the 1st round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Wilson had a memorable 2020 campaign, throwing for 3,692 yards and 33 touchdowns, while only tossing three interceptions in 12 starts.
New QB for Cougars
Fast forward a year, and the Cougars will go with redshirt sophomore Jaren Hall under center, putting the team’s offense in the hands of a player who didn’t take a single snap in 2020.
The Cougars will have redshirt sophomore Tyler Allgeier back, a year after putting up 1,130 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground.
The Wildcats’ defense and first-year defensive coordinator Don Brown will be tasked with putting pressure on Hall come Saturday night, putting the onus on Allgeier to create opportunities for the team’s passing game.
Brown, who was nicknamed “Dr. Blitz” during his stint as defensive coordinator at Michigan, didn’t seem fazed by BYU’s offense during his pregame comments.
"I can assure you this: they know we're coming over the walls,” Brown said.