The State of the State: Arizona Look at College Football Futures

August 17, 2023

Will Arizona build upon its strong finish to last season and become a bowl team?

© Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

A late surge provided reason for optimism, as the Wildcats look to take the next step

It’s hard to get too excited about a 5-7 season. After all, that’s a campaign that doesn’t even warrant a bowl invite, which is a really low bar in modern college football.

But that’s how the University of Arizona finished its 2022 campaign. And believe it or not, it was a season that provided plenty of optimism.

Why? Well, there are two reasons.

First, it was a huge step in the right direction. During the previous two seasons, the Wildcats had gone a combined 1-16. They were 0-5 during the shortened COVID season, which got head coach Kevin Sumlin fired. Then, they were just 1-11 in Jedd Fisch’s first season in Tucson. So, 5-7 was a vast improvement.

Second, it was the way Arizona got to the five wins. In their final three games of the season, the Wildcats knocked off 12th-ranked UCLA on the road, providing a signature win, and beat Arizona State at home, a big win over an in-state rival.

Those two victories provided evidence that Fisch’s ways were starting to take hold. The long-time college and NFL assistant finally got things turned around in his first stint as a head coach.

One of the ways he pulled off the turnaround was by hiring the right assistants. Brennan Carroll is atop the list. Pete Carroll’s son rejuvenated the offense, coordinating a group that finished sixth in the nation in passing and averaged more than 30 points per game.

Jayden de Laura will be the Wildcats quarterback. He’ll have a talented group of wideouts to work with, headlined by Jacob Cowing and Tetairoa McMillan. He’ll also have Michael Wiley in the backfield and Tanner McLachlan at tight end.

Defensively, the cupboard is a little more bare. But linebackers Justin Flowe and Jacob Manu lead the way.

Add it all up and there’s reason for optimism in Tucson. As the sun sets on the Pac-12, maybe Arizona can make a little noise in the conference’s parting moments.

Bud Parmalee’s pick: Arizona over 5.0 wins in 2023 (-110)

A non-conference schedule that features Northern Arizona and UTEP will help the Wildcats get off to a good start. Then, they need to find four more wins once Pac-12 play begins. Stanford, Oregon State and Arizona State are great opportunities to snag a W, leaving Arizona in need of one upset. Colorado and Washington State provide the best chances.