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Pac-12 preview: Nowhere to go but up for Arizona Wildcats

The Jedd Fisch era kicks off Sept. 4 against BYU at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. The Wildcats host Utah on Nov. 13. 

Utah wide receiver Derrick Vickers stiff-arms Arizona linebacker Anthony Pandy during game Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, in Tucson, Ariz.
Arizona linebacker Anthony Pandy stiff-arms Utah wide receiver Derrick Vickers during game Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, in Tucson, Ariz. The Wildcats are riding a 12-game losing streak that spans two seasons and the program enters the new season with a new head coach — former New England Patriots QBs coach Jedd Fisch.
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Editor’s note: First in a series of stories examining the 12 football programs in the Pac-12.

After spending decades as an assistant coach at the college level and the NFL, Jedd Fisch became a head coach for the first time when the University of Arizona hired him to replace Kevin Sumlin last winter.

The Jedd Fisch era kicks off Sept. 4 against BYU at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. The Wildcats host Utah on Nov. 13.

Fisch inherits a school-record 12-game losing streak, including an 0-5 mark last season.

Former New England Patriots QBs coach Jedd Fisch filled the head coach vacancy at Arizona after school fired Kevin Sumlin.
Former New England Patriots quarterback coach Jedd Fisch filled the vacancy at Arizona created when the school fired Kevin Sumlin after the Wildcats finished the 2020 season winless.
Steven Senne, Associated Press

In its final outing of the 2020 campaign, Arizona surrendered 70 points in a humbling loss to archrival Arizona State.

There’s nowhere to go but up for the Wildcats.

Fisch spent the 2020 season as the quarterbacks coach for the New England Patriots and he received a strong endorsement from Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick. Fisch has experience in the Pac-12 after serving as UCLA’s offensive coordinator in 2017.

But it could take a while for Arizona to fight its way out of the Pac-12 cellar.

The Wildcats must find a new quarterback after last year’s starter, Grant Gunnell, transferred to Memphis.

Arizona’s offense averaged a meager 17.4 points per game last season.

Meanwhile, the Wildcats defense surrendered 39.8 points per game and 6.74 yards per play.

To shore up the defense, Fisch hired defensive coordinator Don Brown, who spent the previous five seasons as the DC at Michigan.


Word on the street

“Jedd Fisch was a great get with terrific early returns as the new head coach, but he’s got a lot of work to do. There’s going to be a defense under this coaching staff, but where are the sure-thing wins? The Wildcats will be underdogs against everyone but Northern Arizona.”

— College Football News


By the numbers

2020 record: 0-5 (0-5 Pac-12)

Returning starters: Offense: 5, defense: 9

Players with Utah ties: None


2021 schedule

Sept. 4 BYU

Sept. 11 San Diego State

Sept. 18 Northern Arizona

Sept. 25 @ Oregon

Oct. 9 UCLA

Oct. 16 @ Colorado

Oct. 22 Washington

Oct 30 @ USC

Nov. 6 California

Nov. 13 Utah

Nov. 19 @ Washington State

Nov. 27 @ Arizona State