What a mess.
Few expected the Arizona Wildcats to be particularly good this season, with even the most optimistic of predictions having them fall well short of bowl eligibility.
But now, six games and six losses into the season, even the most pessimistic projections are set to be not only challenged, but surpassed.
Arizona is coming off a blowout loss to a Colorado team they should have been able to compete with. They were shut out for the first time since 2012, allowed both a blocked punt and an interception to be returned for touchdowns, saw another QB suffer a season-ending injury and otherwise gave little reason to believe better times are ahead.
Jedd Fisch, an optimist who won the offseason but has lost every game during the regular season, now finds himself in a considerable predicament. The gist of the excitement over his early tenure had to do with buzz and recruiting, the former of which is gone and the latter would currently seem somewhat tenuous.
The coach’s play-calling has been questioned, especially as he leads an offense that can’t seem to consistently do anything good. Is it fair to pin it all on Fisch? Not really, as he does not exactly have a wealth of talent at his disposal.
As so often happens in football, issues at quarterback have caused problems throughout the rest of the roster, and it is unlikely to be solved until next season at the earliest.
Against that backdrop, Fisch has his work cut out for him. The team he took over was thin and lacking talent at certain positions, and six games into his initial campaign things are even worse due to injury and apparent defections.
The good news is there are still six games left. The bad news is there are still six games left.
Starting with Washington on Friday, Arizona has six more chances to end the losing streak. Six more opportunities to show progress and, at least, 360 minutes of football to show the culture has indeed changed.
There are also six more game plans and six more halftime speeches for this coaching staff to produce, with it all collectively serving to either provide some reason for hope heading into 2022 or, as many are expecting, reason to give up on Arizona Football.
In a perfect world Arizona will not only compete, but also steal a win or two along the way. The offense would evolve into something that does not need upper-tier QB play to score points, while the defense would continue its solid play and even take a step forward in terms of creating sacks and turnovers. Through all that the coaches would establish themselves and, most likely, keep what is currently a solid recruiting class together.
More performances like what we saw in Boulder would send things in a different direction and, well, none of us want to think about where that leads.
In his press conference Tuesday, Fisch said his team was in “great mental spirits,” noting they are confident heading into the second half of the season and, just as they say at halftime of games, the score is 0-0.
“The way we look at it we just finished the first half of this season,” the coach added. “And it is now time to go play the second half of the season.”
Fisch sounded realistic about the challenges facing the team, but not down on its chances. he and his team have continued to say the right things off the field, even if they’ve struggled to do the right things on it.
The problem pre-dates Fisch and this staff, just as this season’s roster is not responsible for all 18 losses. But fair or not, it’s up to all of them to learn, to improve, to get a win.
It’s on them to clean things up.