Similarities from last Belichek-tied College Coach showing in Jedd Fisch

TUCSON, ARIZONA - APRIL 24: Head coach Jedd Fisch of the Arizona Wildcats looks on during the Arizona Spring game at Arizona Stadium on April 24, 2021 in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
TUCSON, ARIZONA - APRIL 24: Head coach Jedd Fisch of the Arizona Wildcats looks on during the Arizona Spring game at Arizona Stadium on April 24, 2021 in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Now that the hype and outrageous expectations of a hot start have come and gone, the start of the Jedd Fisch era with Arizona Football feels reminiscent of another former New England Patriots assistant coach turned head coach Bill O’Brien.

Though the timings and events that preceded their respective arrivals differ greatly, Jedd Fisch and Bill O’Brien’s starts don’t feel all that different. One followed a legendary head coach and incredibly dark scandal at Penn State, while the other is tasked with piecing together and building a program up from the ashes of mismanagement, and a coach who closed off alumni with Arizona Football.

When O’Brien took over the Penn State Nittany Lions in 2012, he also happened to lose his first two games, including a home game to MAC foe Ohio, where they were outplayed from the start, falling 24-14. His second game was a road test where he just couldn’t quite get it all to work out in falling to Virginia by one point.

Fast forward to 2021, and though the results were a bit backward, we saw coach Fisch and his team fall in a close game, where things just didn’t completely come together to a program of similar stature in independent BYU. However, the home opener saw the Wildcats get run out of their stadium.

Now that we are caught up, let’s look to O’Brien’s rest of the 2012 campaign to see what we can possibly look forward to with the Wildcats as we start anew.

First Win: Game 3

If their similar starts have started a trend, this weekend’s game is destined to look as we expected from the start, as in 2012 Penn State won their third game 34-7 over Navy. So hopefully, the Wildcats will continue the trend and join the ranks of winning on Saturday evening.

Before we go any further it’s important to note that both programs were in very different spots, so expecting the Wildcats to go 8-4 though I’d greatly enjoy it as I’m sure we all would, is a bit extreme. 

First Win Against a Ranked Opponent: Game 6

Now calling this an upset in Penn State’s case might be a bit generous, but they did knock off then No. 24 Northwestern at home as part of a five-game win streak that included a win in a hostile environment as well.

In Arizona’s case, the sixth game would be a road game in Boulder, which it isn’t all that unreasonable to think that the Buffs could be ranked if they take care of business before facing the Wildcats.

Now, a five-game win streak including that game may be a huge stretch as that matchup is flanked by Oregon and UCLA on one side, then Washington and USC on the other, but hey, crazier things have happened in college football.

First Bowl Game: TBD

In Bill O’Brien’s two years at Penn State, the Nittany Lions were ineligible for bowl games due to the sanctions they faced at the time, but it is important to note that both of his squads would have been bowl eligible if allowed to participate. After O’Brien left for the Houston Texans and the sanctions were lifted in the first year under James Franklin, Penn State went to the Pinstripe Bowl despite a 2-6 conference record, so it’s not as if the Wildcats may be all that far off that trajectory with Coach Fisch.

Outlook for Arizona Football and coach Jedd Fisch:

Look I get it, after last week it feels like “Here we go again”, but as much as we didn’t want to believe it, this is a team that is more than hype and a new coach away from being a great program.

However, one thing that stood out in a positive way through these past two weeks was Coach Fisch. He hasn’t backed down and owned up to the shortcomings, and if the past has taught us anything about Belichek disciples, it’s that in college they can right and stabilize the ship in short order. Bear Down, Arizona!

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