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Arizona Wildcats football: Bowl possibilities and projections

Rich Rodriguez

Rich Rodriguez is trying to become the first coach to lead Arizona to a bowl in his first season. Photo by Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE

Let’s talk Arizona Wildcats football, big picture. Four games left. The bowl possibilities.

Arizona is 5-3 overall. It needs to get to six wins to be eligible for one of the Pac-12′s seven guaranteed bowls. The league could have eight bowl slots if it sends two teams to the BCS.

With Colorado still on the schedule — a home game on Nov. 10 — the chances of the Cats getting to six victories is the barest minimum of expectations. The question isn’t really whether the Buffs are the worst team in the league (their shocking comeback win at Washington State notwithstanding), but one of the worst since the Oregon State teams of the early 1980s.

(The 2008 Washington State Cougars say hello. So do the winless 2008 Washington Huskies, who lost to that 2008 WSU team.)

Anyway, it’s probably time for a refresher course on which bowls select Pac-12 teams in what order. Here it is:

1. Rose vs. Big Ten team — Jan. 1, Pasadena (or the national title game if ranked first or second in the final BCS standings)
2. Alamo vs. Big 12 — Dec. 29, San Antonio
3. Holiday vs. Big 12 — Dec. 27, San Diego
4. Sun vs. ACC — Dec. 31, El Paso
5. MAACO Bowl Las Vegas vs. MWC — Dec. 22, Las Vegas
6. Kraft Fight Hunger vs. Navy (if eligible) — San Francisco, Dec. 29
7. New Mexico vs. MWC, Albuquerque — Dec. 15

OK, let’s start with the Rose. How can the Cats get there?

They could win the Pac-12 title game, of course. To get there, they would have to win the South. To win the South, they would basically have to win their remaining four games — at UCLA, vs. Colorado, at Utah, vs. Arizona State — and have USC lose once more.

Pretty simple. Except for the part about tacking on four more victories to a current two-game winning streak.

Or …

Oregon advances to the BCS championship game, and the Rose gets to replace its Pac-12 representative. The Rose, in keeping with its conference tie-in tradition, can take another Pac-12 team if it is in the top 14 of the BCS standings. The Rose could also go outside the conference for a replacement from the pool of available teams in the top 14.

Could Arizona achieve an at-large BCS bid to the Rose if it wins out and then gives the Ducks a close battle in the Pac-12 title game? Doubtful. Based on history, do not expect a four-loss team to be in the BCS top 14. The Cats are No. 24 in the current BCS standings.

The more realistic sweet spot is something in the middle of the Pac-12 bowl arrangements. Arizona, according to various bowl projections, will go to the Holiday Bowl. No, the Sun. No, to Vegas. No, to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.

Yeah, it’s wide open.

Here is a sample of Arizona projections, including two differing opinions from ESPN.com:

ESPN.com Pac-12 blogger Kevin Gemmell: Holiday

ESPN.com’s Mark Schlabach: Sun vs. Duke

CBSSports.com: Kraft Fight Hunger vs. Navy

Sporting News: Kraft Fight Hunger vs. Navy

CollegeFootballNews.com: Sun vs. Virginia Tech

Athlon: MAACO Bowl Las Vegas vs. Nevada

Phil Steele: MAACO Bowl Las Vegas vs. Boise State

Orlando Sentinel: MAACO Bowl Las Vegas vs. Fresno State

Your guess is as good as theirs.

Yes, yes, this is a one-game-at-a-time business for the coaches and players, but quarterback Matt Scott said he thinks “everyone is keeping on the eye” on the standings.

“At the same time, we still have to keep winning,” he said. “We could lose respect real easy by losing a couple of games here and there. We just need to keep going and keeping fighting.”

The Rose Bowl chatter goes out the window if Arizona loses at UCLA on Saturday. On the other hand, if UA wins, and Oregon takes down USC at the L.A. Coliseum, the Wildcats will control their destiny, three wins away from a division title.

Something to think about. Not for the players, though.

“The way you can block it out is, if you lose to UCLA on Saturday, then the big picture doesn’t matter anymore,” said receiver Dan Buckner. “We can’t play four (games) in one day. I don’t think it’s possible to play four in one day. We’re just looking to play this one this week.”

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