The Pac-12 has underwhelmed in the College Football Playoff era. Oregon and Washington have ascended to the sport’s grandest stage once each, but the conference has failed to establish a quality depth of teams and few that consistently threaten the postseason picture.
Arizona is a team part of that problem, underwhelming when expected to deliver at least middle-of-the-road results in the Pac-12 South. They were 0-5 in the shortened 2020 season, all of which came inside the conference. Jedd Fisch has his work cut out for him as a first-year head coach.
The ex-Los Angeles Rams coach is expected to bring a high-octane offense from Sean McVay’s system. While a hopeful sign for Wildcat fans, it will take years to implement, with a few recruiting classes of Fisch’s own guys to aid in turning this around. Arizona isn’t exactly a recruiting hotbed against Washington, USC, UCLA, Oregon and Arizona State, so the road will be difficult.
Oregon State won’t be able to crack the Pac-12 North, either. Jonathan Smith’s 9-20 record is disappointing but unsurprising, with other conference schools as more appealing destinations, let alone the Ducks in their own state.
The 2021 team has quarterback questions, which isn’t good. Tristan Gebbia is still around, but he was inconsistent last season and hobbled by injuries. Chance Nolan had his moments in the starting spotlight. Sam Noyer is the wild card, though, arriving from Colorado as a transfer. He may take the job and run with it if Gebbia slips up.
A mediocre defense also doesn’t help the equation. They are not inept, bringing back a few starters from last year’s team, but excitement is nonexistent.
Between Arizona and Oregon State, there is little upside for the 2021 season. Ultimately, the Wildcats have more work cut out for them behind a new head coach and a ton of uncertainty. Expect them at the back of the entire Pac-12 line.