Editor’s note: Seventh in a series previewing each team in the Pac-12.

The good news in Tucson is that Arizona football is improving. 

The bad news? Other programs in the Pac-12 are also on the rise.

Still, the Wildcats, who finished 1-11 in coach Jedd Fisch’s inaugural season in 2021, are no longer the conference doormat. 

Arizona posted a 5-7 mark last season. The goal for this fall is to get to a bowl game for the first time since 2017.

Fisch agreed to a contract extension in December that will keep him in Tucson through the 2027 season. He has bolstered the talent in the program and established a culture of hard work and discipline. 

But how long until that translates into the kind of success Arizona is hoping for? 

“Our philosophy has been, ‘How are we going to take that mentality of all of the work that we’ve invested and then turn it into wins, on or off the field?’ And that’s kind of where we’re at,” Fisch told AZcentral.com. “We certainly feel as if we’re at a good spot football-wise. We need to be smart, we need to be tough, we need to be disciplined, and we need to get better on defense and on special teams, and continue to improve on offense, and that’s what we’re gonna do.”

Quarterback Jayden de Laura returns to the Wildcats after completing 272 of 435 passes for 3,685 yards with 25 touchdowns and 13 interceptions last season. 

The Washington State transfer has some reliable targets, including receivers Tetairoa McMillan (85 receptions, 1,034 yards, seven touchdowns) and Jacob Cowing (39 catches, 702 yards, eight TDs). 

Why Washington State is expected to be pass-happy again
Why the climb back to relevancy for Stanford football could prove to be difficult
Will high-profile Clemson transfer give Oregon State’s offense a big boost?
What will Oregon’s Bo Nix do for an encore?
Is Cal coach Justin Wilcox on the hot seat?

While Arizona receiver Dorian Singer, who finished No. 2 in the Pac-12 in receiving yards, transferred to USC, freshman Kevin Green Jr. is expected to start along with McMillan and Cowing. 

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Meanwhile, on defense, Arizona has added 18 defensive players through the transfer portal and the high school level. Changes were needed, as the Wildcats gave up an average of 36.5 points per game. 

Certainly, the defense needs to catch up to the offense. The next step for Arizona is getting to a bowl game. 

“When you’re able to beat a top-10 team, then there should be an expectation that you can do that more than once. When you’re able to win games on the road, there should be an expectation to do that more than once. We were able to take care of some games that I think a year ago, or two years ago, we weren’t ready to do,” Fisch said. “Now our expectation is let’s go out there and let’s see how many we can win. Let’s see how good we can play. Let’s see how good we can be. And then most importantly, see how physical we can be.”

2022 record: 5-7 (3-6 Pac-12).

Utah ties

  • DL Ammon Kaufusi (Highland HS)
  • OL Jacob Reese (Brighton HS)

2023 schedule

  • Sept. 2 Northern Arizona
  • Sept. 9 @Mississippi State
  • Sept. 16 UTEP
  • Sept. 23 @Stanford
  • Sept. 30  Washington
  • Oct. 7  @USC
  • Oct. 14 @Washington State
  • Oct. 28 Oregon State
  • Nov. 4 UCLA
  • Nov. 11 @Colorado
  • Nov. 18 Utah
  • Nov. 25 @Arizona State
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