Arizona Football at No. 5 in first 2024 Big 12 Preseason Poll, ASU at No. 16

On the heels of an unexpectedly great 2023 season, Arizona Football is among the top contenders in their first season in the Big 12. The same cannot be said for rival ASU.
Arizona v Arizona State
Arizona v Arizona State / Christian Petersen/GettyImages

The Big 12 released its first 2024 Preseason Poll for the upcoming college football season, and Arizona is in the conversation as one of the top teams in its new conference.

The first Big 12 preseason poll to include the four former Pac-12 teams has Utah projected to win the conference. The Utes received 20 first-place votes and 906 total points, narrowly edging out second-place Kansas State, who garnered 19 first-place votes and 889 points. Last year's conference champion, Oklahoma State, was picked to finish third with 14 first-place votes and 829 points.

Arizona in the mix

In their new conference, the Arizona Wildcats, led by first-year head coach Brent Brennan and his staff of Duane Akina, Dino Babers, and Alonzo Carter, are ranked 5th with 762 points and three first-place votes. They narrowly missed 4th place, which went to Kansas with 772 points and four first-place votes.

Despite their surprise 10-3 performance last season, Arizona received the fewest first-place votes. Meanwhile, teams like No. 6 Iowa State, No. 7 West Virginia, and No. 8 UCF failed to earn any first-place votes, despite their expected quality of play. However, Arizona's returning stars are now garnering increased media attention and respect following their breakout year.

The quarterback-wide receiver duo of Tetairoa McMillan and Noah Fifita is easily the best in the Big 12 and potentially the nation. The offensive line and secondary each boast a future first-round NFL draft pick in Jonah Savaiinaea and Tacario Davis, respectively, and Jacob Manu led the Pac-12 in tackles last season. Additionally, Arizona replaced the outgoing Jonah Coleman with two top-flight running backs from the transfer portal: Quali Conley and Jacory Croskey-Merritt.

ASU riding the struggle bus

Not every program joining the Big 12 this offseason is faced with such rosy prospects of their future, though. In-state rival ASU clocks in at No. 16 with 141 points, trailing 15th-ranked Houston's 157 points by 16.

After a dismal season on the field, ASU experienced a mass exodus of talent from Tempe, swiftly ushering in a rebuilding phase in the post-Herm Edwards era. While new head coach Kenny Dillingham was able to prevent the Sun Devils from suffering the same fate as 2021 Arizona, the program's long-term outlook remains uncertain at best.

Dillingham's reputation as a players' coach who can get his team to buy in has enabled ASU to land numerous power-conference transfers, suggesting the program is on the right track. However, the Sun Devils are likely facing at least one more season of mediocrity before the new pieces fully come together.

Between Arizona having something to prove and ASU facing an uphill battle in its new conference, the Big 12's inaugural Duel in the Desert is set up for the Territorial Cup to stay in Tucson for at least one more season.

ICYMI. All Big 12. 12 Arizona players listed on Athlon Sports' four All-Big 12 teams. dark

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