Two programs fighting for respect in Week 1, albeit under different circumstances, meet Saturday for the first game on CBS for the 2022 college football season. With a brand new stadium at San Diego State and a transfer-laden roster for Arizona, new eras dominate the headlines for this nonconference battle.
Arizona struggled mightily in coach Jedd Fisch's first season, winning only a single game against a Cal squad depleted by COVID-19 health and safety protocols. However, Arizona reeled in both the No. 25 recruiting class and transfer classes in the nation to try to quickly turn things around. Fisch is leaning on creating a program focused on NFL development.
San Diego State put together perhaps the greatest season in program history last year with a 12-2 record and Mountain West Championship Game berth. The defense was otherworldly under coach Brady Hoke's watch, holding opponents to just 19.8 points per game in 2021. However, Virginia Tech transfer quarterback Braxton Burmeister will try to fix a passing offense that ranked No. 115 nationally.
The matchup between these two programs is the 17th all-time with the Wildcats holding a 10-6 lead. However, San Diego State crushed a rebuilding Arizona squad 38-14 behind 125 yards rushing and a score from Greg Bell last season. However, Bell is off to the NFL, so the Aztecs will have to find offense elsewhere.
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Arizona vs. San Diego State: Need to know
New-look Wildcats: Arizona went 1-11 in 2021, but Fisch quickly transformed the roster over the offseason. The Wildcats added QB Jayden de Laura, the former Pac-12 Freshman of the Year at Washington State, plus star wide receiver Jacob Cowing from UTEP and a handful of Power Five defenders from UCLA, Michigan and USC. Additionally, Fisch reeled in the Pac-12's No. 2 recruiting class thanks to shocking Southern California additions headlined by receiver Tetairoa McMillan. Thanks to its roster-building efforts off the field, Arizona is a major bounce-back candidate.
National recognition: The Aztecs ranked among the best teams in the nation last year during a breakout season under Hoke and likely would have won the Mountain West title game if not for major Covid issues. The program boasts six preseason All-Mountain West selections, including Co-Defensive Player of the Year Patrick McMorris at defensive back. However, SDSU also has to rebuild a struggling offense if it is to repeat its success from a year ago.
A new stadium awaits: San Diego State is set to open up the brand new Snapdragon Stadium, an on-campus facility that not-so-subtly will be making a pitch to the Pac-12 during its unveiling against Arizona. The new stadium sits at 35,000 capacity, but is fitted to increase to 55,000 capacity if needed. San Diego State had to play home games at Dignity Health Sports Park on the campus of Cal State Dominguez Hills in 2021, effectively two hours away from campus. The new stadium debut should be a thrilling moment for the program.
Arizona vs. San Diego State prediction, picks
This matchup features two programs coming from opposite directions of the competitiveness spectrum that could meet in the middle in San Diego. The Wildcats are betting big on recruiting and transfers quickly flipping the roster. San Diego State is trusting that a new transfer quarterback (Burmeister) and key returners on defense can maintain top-25 performance. The feisty Wildcats will get enough dynamic plays to keep things close in a low-scoring affair. Prediction: Arizona (+6)
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