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Where Arizona football sits in early 2024 rankings

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pac-12-football-bowl-affiliations-conference-realignment-arizona-wildcats-big-12-move Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

With the College Football Playoff expanding to 12 teams in 2024, more programs than ever before will have real aspirations to compete on the sport’s highest stage.

Few programs stand to benefit from the expanded playoff as much, or as soon, as Arizona. After finishing the 2023 season on a seven-game winning streak that catapulted the program to No. 11 in the final Associated Press rankings, Arizona enters the coming year with a great deal of expectations.

For the first time since 2015, Arizona is all but sure to be ranked in the preseason top 25. And if way-too-early 2024 rankings are any indiction, the Wildcats have a chance to enter a season ranked in the top 10 for the first time this century.

Here’s where national pundits rank the Wildcats in (extremely) early preseason top 25 polls for the 2024 season. (Blurbs explaining Arizona’s ranking are italicized when provided by the publication).

Brett McMurphy, Action Network: No. 8

Mark Schlabach, ESPN.com: No. 9

It has been quite a turnaround for the Wildcats under coach Jedd Fisch. After going 1-11 in 2021, Arizona won 10 games by defeating Oklahoma 38-24 in the Valero Alamo Bowl. The Wildcats will take a seven-game winning streak into 2024, when they jump from the Pac-12 to the Big 12. They’ll be among the favorites in their first season in their new league. The bulk of Arizona’s starters this past season were underclassmen, so there’s plenty of talent returning. Noah Fifita was one of the top freshman quarterbacks in the FBS, and one of his favorite targets, receiver Tetairoa McMillion, is also coming back. Four starters could also return on the offensive line, although left tackle Morgan will be missed. Upshaw had 8.5 sacks in 2023 and left a big hole on the edge. Arizona’s 2024 schedule is manageable with Big 12 road games at BYU, Utah, TCU and UCF.

Dennis Dodd, CBS Sports: No. 10

Jedd Fisch for president — and any other public office you’d like to name. The third-year Wildcats coach established himself as a big-timer and Arizona as a playoff contender in 2024 by winning 10 games for only the second time since 1998. Noah Fifita should contend for the Heisman.

Pat Forde, Sports Illustrated: No. 10

The Wildcats were the hottest non-Playoff team in the country at season’s end, reeling off seven straight victories to set hopes soaring for 2024. Quarterback Noah Fifita will return after lighting up the final nine games of the season, as will his 6’5” receiving star, Tetairoa McMillan. The nucleus of a vastly improved defense will be back as well. The move to the Big 12 will bring some new challenges but theoretically an easier playoff path.

Max Chadwick, Pro Football Focus: No. 10

Arizona might’ve had an even more surprising season than Missouri. The Wildcats finished with a 10-3 record after five straight losing years that combined for a 15-38 record.

Also like Mizzou, Arizona returns many key contributors from that team, namely the stars of its offense. Noah Fifita is back to lead it and finished with a 78.1% adjusted completion rate this year, fourth among Pac-12 quarterbacks. Jonah Coleman joins him once again in the backfield and had the fifth-best forced missed tackle rate among Power Five running backs this season (37%). Fifita’s top receiver since eighth grade, Tetairoa McMillan, is back as well. His 1,396 receiving yards this year led all returning Power Five receivers.

The Wildcats enter the Big 12 as the early favorite to win the new-look conference.

Paul Myerberg and Erick Smith, USA Today: No. 13

The Wildcats finished as one of the hottest teams in the country after winning their last seven games. They are one of the Big 12 favorites entering their first season in the league. Noah Fifita assumed the quarterback job midway through the season and threw for 25 touchdowns. WR Tetairoa McMillan and RB Jonah Coleman will be key components of an elite offense. The defense is poised to have its five leading tacklers back.

Jesse Simonton, On3: No. 14

As you can see, Arizona is a consensus top 15 team in way-too-early polls.

The sports betting market is a little softer on Arizona’s title chances. The Wildcats have the 21st-best odds to win the national championship at DraftKings Sportsbook, where they’re listed at +7000. That’s tied with Kansas State for the second-best odds in the Big 12, behind Utah at +5000.

The highest Arizona has ever started a season was No. 4 in 1999. Arizona lost its season opener to No. 3 Penn State that year and quickly fell out of the top 10. The Wildcats went on to go 6-6.