It’s finally here.
Arizona Football is set to kick off its 2022 season, and while this year is not expected to be one for the record books it may very well be found written about in the history section.
With just a touch of hyperbole, this could be the season where things really turned around for the struggling program.
What if, for example, Jedd Fisch’s squad wins four games? How about five? Could they possibly win six or more and get to a bowl for the first time since 2017?
There’s also another possibility, one that has the Cats finishing with fewer than three wins, as the oddsmakers expect.
But no matter how you think the team will fare on the field, you certainly have some expectations for the team over its next 12 games. What are they?
Well, it depends on what group you’re watching from.
So you think they’ll still be bad?
Arizona could be bad again and still have a worthwhile season, right? Last year’s 1-win effort wasn’t a total loss, as the new coaching staff showed it could get the players to keep playing hard while navigating some tough losses and bad injury luck.
Not to say another 1-win season would be acceptable, but there’s a world where the team could post a dismal record while still having a solid season.
If you’re in this group, you are looking to see the team be competitive most weeks, including in games against some of the Pac-12’s best. The schedule isn’t particularly favorable — especially in the games after they play at Cal and before they’re back home against Washington State — but hanging in there against Oregon, USC or at Utah would be a positive sign.
You’re clearly not expecting much in terms of the scoreboard, but blowouts would still be tough to stomach. You can accept the Wildcats losing because of a lack of talent, but at the very least can they cut down on the penalties and turnovers?
Doing that while relying mostly on first-year players would also help in providing optimism for next season, which is what this one is really about. And hey, at least the uniforms still look great.
They won’t be bad, but I can’t call them good
Mediocrity never looked so appealing. A season where Arizona wins a few, maybe four games wouldn’t normally be anything to be proud of, but it would hard to be truly upset with this (especially if one of those victories is over Arizona State).
Besides, how many programs would be upset with tripling or quadrupling their win total from the year before?
If this is how you’re approaching the season, you understand that Arizona will have to win a few games they are likely not to be favored in, so that’s something. You’re also likely expecting them to be at least competent on a week-to-week basis. They’ll have some clunkers, of course, but overall they will acquit themselves well when they take the field.
You’ll expect questions about Fisch’s play-calling will be alleviated, as the increase in talent will show what kind of offense he actually wants to run. Arizona will shuffle through a good amount of its depth, with some of the younger players playing well enough to look like a part of the future.
This isn’t to say a season like this should be the norm or will be accepted in the future, but instead it’s acknowledging that while the talent has been upgraded this is a massive rebuilding project that will need time to be completed.
Progress is allowed to be incremental, so long as there are signs of it happening.
I’m all in, they’re going bowling (and reclaiming the Territorial Cup)!
Sure Arizona was bad last season and even worse the season before, but that’s in the past. The roster has been completely made over and with the reigning Pac-12 Freshman Offensive Player of the year at quarterback, a top-25 recruiting class and other talented players, so there’s no reason to think the Wildcats can’t take a massive step forward.
You see the schedule as tough, but not impossible. Really the first six games are plenty winnable, as are the last two. In between are some tough ones but hey, what’s an Arizona season without a big-time upset?
None of this will happen without Jayden de Laura being effective and healthy, nor will it unless Arizona’s receivers make big plays down the field. The running backs will have holes to run through and the defense will get after the quarterback and create turnovers. Special teams will come up big, too.
If all this happens, you’ll also expect the play-calling to be creative and timely, while the penalties and mental mistakes will be kept to a minimum.
Perhaps best of all, you’re anticipating players showing improvement from last season and over the course of this one. The best coaches get the most out of their players by, imagine this, coaching them up, and this will only make the team better and deeper for not only this season, but for 2023 and beyond.
That’s how it works for good programs, and Arizona is one. Perhaps ahead of schedule, but that’s what happens in a portal and NIL world.
Whether you fit neatly into any of those groups or perhaps have one of your own, the fact of the matter is at this point all options are on the table, which is normally the case for any team entering the season but seems especially true for this one.
This all makes the season to come one with varied expectations, all of which are correct. If you think Arizona is going to be bad, decent, good or some other adjective, you likely have legitimate reasons to feel that way.
Now all that’s left to do is find out who is right.