The Arizona Wildcats have had a roller coaster of a season as they head into their bye week. Kevin Sumlin and company suddenly find themselves at 5-5, just one win away from bowl eligibility.
Prior to the season, that would have been seen as underwhelming. But after a 1-2 performance in nonconference play, that suddenly seems like quite the accomplishment.
Here we’ll take a look back at Arizona’s season thus far and check out what’s up ahead.
Week 1: BYU 28, Arizona 23
The Kevin Sumlin era started with a home loss to BYU, a frustrating one at that. Khalil Tate wasn’t running the ball, deep shots were taken all night long and the defense was just getting gassed as the game went on.
We still don’t know if it was Tate being greedy or if Noel Mazzone was trying to mold Tate into a pro-style guy, but we do know it was the start of some questionable play-calling that we still see to this day.
BYU now sits at 4-5, including a huge win against Wisconsin, but also a bad 7-6 loss to Northern Illinois.
Week 2: Houston 45, Arizona 18
A brutal 9 a.m. (Tucson) start time was just the start of the bad things for Arizona. Here we see Tate struggle with an injury and Houston just came out on top early. We did see some fight, and Arizona made the score look much better than the game actually was. But Houston is now 7-2 and was ranked in the top 25 of the Associated Press and Coaches poll before losing at SMU.
Week 3: Arizona 62, Southern Utah
Southern Utah was a battle in the first half. Arizona entered the second half up 24-17 before finally pulling away. It’s not a good look when you give up 31 to an FCS opponent, one that has only one win on the season. The 31 points given up by Arizona is Southern Utah’s third-highest scoring affair.
Nonetheless the win heading into conference play, and drawing Oregon State in the Pac-12 opener, made you think the Wildcats could snag two wins in a row.
Week 4: Arizona 35, Oregon State 14
It was a slow start in Corvallis but J.J. Taylor got things rolling in a career performance. Arizona was starting to shape up and perhaps it took a few games to get things into sync.
Week 5: USC 24, Arizona 20
USC at home, starting a true freshman quarterback who enrolled a year early. USC hadn’t look good at this point and this was still a pretty winnable game leading up to it.
But Arizona’s offense comes out flat and finally shows up in the second half, rallying from down 24-0. Frustrating because you just have one successful possession in the first half Arizona’s season and the Pac-12 South would have been flipped upside down.
Week 6: Arizona 24, California 17
Cal comes to town in what seemed to be a toss-up game. It was clear that Arizona hadn’t been capable of putting together a complete game to this point and that held true for this game.
Terrible offensive production and allowing painful third-down conversions made this game way closer than it had to be, but the defense came through to grind out a win.
Week 7: Utah 42, Arizona 10
In Salt Lake City, on a short week, with a banged-up Tate, it just didn’t add up. Enter Rhett Rodriguez after just a few short series, who actually moved the ball. But it just wasn’t in the cards for Arizona to have a good night against Utah.
Week 8: UCLA 31, Arizona 30
UCLA was coming off its first win of the season and entered as sizable favorites. Rodriguez was the starter, giving Tate’s injured ankle a week off. What results is a painful loss that would have Arizona much closer to bowl eligibility right now.
Week 9: Arizona 44, Oregon 15
It’s Homecoming and everyone had accepted that Oregon was going to beat down Arizona. But the defense plays lights out to set the tone, special teams made plays in literally every phase and Tate looked healthier. That provided the Wildcats with a potent offense, and while it might have been the classic Arizona upset, it seemed like this team was turning a corner.
Week 10: Arizona 42, Colorado 34
Colorado had always been a winnable game, even after its 5-0 start which was loaded with lousy teams and has struggled since losing badly to Oregon State. Meanwhile it seems like Arizona has been getting its act together.
It started out pretty poorly, but things got going and Arizona seemed to be in control of things, but Colorado doesn’t go down without a fight.
Arizona travels to Pullman to take on a Top 10 opponent in Washington State on Nov. 17. The Cougars sure looked vulnerable against Cal in their last game, and Arizona has turned the corner heading into the bye.
But I’m not sure you can be upset if Arizona loses this one by two scores, maybe even more, as long as the Wildcats are competitive. My expectations are low for this one, and it really comes down to the Territorial Cup at home against Arizona State on Nov. 24.
ASU is in the driver’s seat for the Pac-12 South, in control of its own destiny, and it’s terrifying. But Arizona can hopefully put this thing to bed with a win to end the season and ride into the bowl season sunset.
Kevin Sumlin needs that win.
Four months ago if we said Arizona would be depending on the ASU game for bowl eligibility it would have been infuriating. But in a sloppy Pac-12, with questionable offensive play calling and injuries to key players all season, you have to take what you can get.