Calculating the wins needed for Arizona to earn a College Football Playoff at-large bid

The Wildcats would need to either repeat or improve upon last year's success and conference standing to get into the playoff conversation.
Utah v Arizona
Utah v Arizona / Chris Coduto/GettyImages

It's not exactly a secret that the college football world isn't quite sure what to do with the Arizona Wildcats. After posting a pedestrian 5-7 season in 2022, Arizona massively improved its record to 10-3 in 2023, making its first bowl game in six seasons and winning its first bowl game in eight seasons.

There have been some key shakeups since the conclusion of the 2023 campaign, though. Fisch jumped ship for the Washington vacancy, and new head coach Brent Brennan was finally handed the reins to the program he wanted to lead four years ago. Arizona has also left the Pac-12 to join the newly expanded Big 12 alongside ASU, Colorado, and Utah.

Despite the changes facing the Wildcats, the most important thing has remained mostly intact: the roster. Led by the Servite High School trio of quarterback Noah Fifita, wide receiver Tetairoa McMillan, and linebacker Jacob Manu, the vast majority of last season's key contributors are running it back for one more year in the desert.

What does Arizona need to do in 2024?

Arizona isn't the only team entering 2024 with expectations to be in contention for a College Football Playoff spot in the Big 12. Still, the Wildcats may not need to take the conference championship to earn an at-large bid. One publication believes 10 wins would be what it takes for the 'Cats to earn a CFP bid.

For the first time in a long time, Arizona isn't stuck on the outside looking in. Even if the Wildcats make it to the Big 12 Championship game and fall short against another playoff-bound team, it could spell out an at-large bid for Arizona on the biggest stage in college football.

Where will Arizona's 10 wins come from in 2024?

Arizona's 2024 schedule will play out as follows:

  1. New Mexico
  2. NAU
  3. @ K-State (Non-conference)
  4. @ Utah
  5. Texas Tech
  6. @ BYU
  7. Colorado (Homecoming)
  8. WVU
  9. @ UCF
  10. Houston
  11. @ TCU
  12. ASU (Territorial Cup)

Thankfully, Arizona only has to play two of the four Big 12 teams that were ranked ahead of them in the first preseason poll. Kansas State will be an early litmus test, but Avery Johnson's relative inexperience at that point in the season leads me to believe the Wildcats will start the season 3-0 entering Big 12 play.

Utah is where Arizona is most vulnerable. The Utes are favored to win the Big 12 in Year 1 under head coach Kyle Whittingham, who can never be counted out and has coached against Arizona for years. The Wildcats win in Tucson last season broke Utah's streak of five straight wins from 2016-22, and it could be tough to reign in quarterback Cam Rising if his return from injury stays smooth.

Texas Tech, BYU, Houston, TCU, and ASU can all safely be penciled in as wins on the 2024 schedule. Between what Arizona has retained, it's not a long shot to assume that Arizona will not regress more than any of these five programs improve. Colorado, West Virginia, and UCF all have high ceilings for next season, but are either unproven or dealing with key changes that may blow up in their faces.

Avoiding Oklahoma State and Kansas in Year 1 is certainly to Arizona's benefit, but the 'Cats have to put their money where their mouths are. The hype train has been slowly gaining momentum and Utah, Kansas State, and West Virginia will have something to say about Arizona's aspirations of reaching back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time in program history.

Top5. Ranking the Top 5 Athletes to come out of Arizona. dark. ICYMI

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