In the two late games, we have two of the better bowl matchups thus far in 2017. It means we’re getting closer to the New Year’s Six bowls and college football playoff. After Boxing Day, the bowl schedule starts to heat up a bit. In the first matchup, the Arizona Wildcats and the dynamic Khalil Tate take on the Purdue Boilermakers. Tate was the best newcomer to college football this season, as he came in against Colorado on October 7th and hasn’t looked back. In just that amount of time, Tate put together numbers a lot of guys couldn’t accomplish in two years. He looked about as good running the football as we’ve seen since Michael Vick. Rich Rodriguez coached Pat White and Denard Robinson, but those two were twigs. Tate is a bit thicker, and physical on the field.
Tate still has a mountain to climb until we say this is the next Vick, though. Vick had a heck of an arm, too. And while Tate is more of a passer than White or Denard, he has to fix some things up in the passing game. This was just his first year seeing the field consistently, so the offseason must be a time to improve his passing ability. We’ve seen him drop bombs deep downfield to receivers, but the consistency must get better, and he needs to be better at reading pass coverages. I can’t really say Rich Rod is the guy to help him out in that regard. If Tate rushes for 300 yards and 55 yards passing, he’d be completely fine with that.
In any event, Tate put up jaw dropping numbers. He rushed for 1,353 yards and 12 touchdowns, all of which came after September. His emergence at Arizona propelled him to Heisman talk, but a rough game against Oregon put an end to that. They also lost their rivalry games against Arizona State. Tate missed the entire second-half due to a shoulder injury, so things may have played out differently if he were healthy. There was also a horrendous block in the back call on an Arizona punt return for a touchdown. Arizona will try and end the year on a high note against a Big Ten opponent, the Purdue Boilermakers. Head below for our free Arizona vs. Purdue pick in the Foster Farms Bowl in San Francisco.
Arizona Wildcats vs. Purdue Boilermakers Betting Odds:
vs. Purdue +3(-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Arizona vs. Purdue Pick:
Tate hurt his schedule at the end of the first-half against Purdue, but is going to be healthy enough to play against the Boilermakers. Even after he had his record breaking tear, there are a lot of people who haven’t had the chance to watch him play yet. If there is one game to watch today, I’d say this is the one to tune-in and watch. Especially if you haven’t watched Tate play, this will be the time to do it before next season. He certainly did a good job of saving Rodriguez’s job.
Arizona have a huge jolt to the offense. The Cats finished the regular season with 495 yards per game for 11th in the nation. The offense was sputtering before Tate took the reins. Arizona ultimately scored 41.8 points per game. That number may have been higher if he played the entire year. Offense wasn’t obviously an issue for them, but they fielded an ultra-young, raw defensive unit this season. Rich Rod recruited some talent, but they made rookie gaffes in 2017. They are 117th, allowing 464 yards per game. The Wildcats are also giving up 34.1 points per game for 109th in the FBS.
Purdue will attack the Arizona defense with Elijah Sindelar. Sindelar started to find his groove late in the year. He finished the regular season with 8 touchdowns and 1 interception across the last four games. Purdue should be able to exploit the young Arizona secondary. They were gashed for 276.9 yards through the air, 122nd in the FBS. Tate came off as looking a little exhausted in the final two games of the regular season. The burst he had earlier wasn’t there, but with about a month off to rest up, I expect us to see Tate run wild on Purdue. Let this be his introduction for a Heisman run in 2018. I’d consider taking a look at the OVER here.
PICK: OVER 66 (-110)