When the Arizona Wildcats finally take the field for their first game in 2018, all eyes will be on star quarterback Khalil Tate. He’s surely come a long way, as he was riding the bench to begin 2017.
After a less than ideal start at the QB position last season, Khalil Tate got his shot and he ran with it. Literally. That was until he was strangely removed from the game against Arizona State late in the year. Still, Tate finished the year with 1,591 passing yards, 14 touchdowns, 1,411 rushing yards, and 12 rushing touchdowns in just 11 games. If he continues that pace, he should be a runaway for the Heisman Trophy when December rolls around. Tate currently has 14-1 odds to win it, with many players ranked ahead of him, but he may have the highest upside.
Tate’s stiffest Heisman competition may come from within the Pac-12, as Stanford’s Bryce Love leads the pack (Editor’s note: Let’s be real, Love will finish second again in true Stanford RB tradition). Oregon QB Justin Herbert also has the same odds as Khalil Tate to win the award. Mark my words, Tate will have a better 2018 season than either of those two players. The Arizona offense is rejuvenated under new head coach Kevin Sumlin and Tate himself has become more outspoken and confident. He’s ready to show the world what he can do on the football field, for a full season.
While Pac-12 defenses may now be better prepared for the Arizona QB, there’s no containing a dynamic athlete like that. He may not have as many 300-yard rushing games as he did last season, but there will be a few. If he has even more than expected, the Wildcats could find themselves in the Rose Bowl as Pac-12 champions this season. The team has the potential to win a ton of games with Khalil Tate leading the way.
It’s not far-fetched to think Tate could pass for over 2,000 yards and rush for 2,000 more in 2018. It would be tough to do, but if he can get it done it makes no sense for him to not win the Heisman. One of the biggest issues Tate will face all season is the east coast bias and lack of exposure in the Pac-12. Many on the east coast don’t stay up to watch west coast football and some #Pac12AfterDark, and the Pac-12 has one of the worst television deals in the game. Will enough people get to see Khalil Tate’s greatness this season?
Arizona’s first game will be on ESPN and their second will be on either ESPN2 or ABC. That week two game against Houston will be Tate’s first real exposure to the masses in 2018 as the game is on the road and begins at noon on the east coast. As of now, the Wildcats are scheduled to have just two more games broadcast nationally. Both of those games are on Friday nights, late at night when no one will be watching. Tate, and the Wildcats fans, have to find a way to keep him in the spotlight all season long. He cannot be overlooked simply because of the Pac-12 and lack of national media coverage.