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Arizona Wildcats bowl projections: Albuquerque-bound?

Rich Rodriguez

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

The Arizona Wildcats are bowl eligible at 6-4 overall, but they still have some work to do to land in a contracted Pac-12 bowl.

The league has seven guaranteed spots — from a spot in the BCS down to the New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque — and already has seven eligible teams.

Arizona State (5-5) is likely to join the party this Saturday after a game against woeful Washington State, and Utah (4-6) is still competing for the postseason, too.

The Cats can take care of the Utes this Saturday night in Salt Lake City; if Arizona fails, then Utah is likely to get to six wins to make it NINE bowl eligible teams from the Pac-12.

Below are links to many bowl projections. Here is how I break it down:

1. BCS (national championship game or Rose Bowl)

Oregon. The Ducks will get a scare down the stretch — Stanford this week, at Oregon State next week, Pac-12 title game — but their offense will overcome any deficiencies from their patched-up defense, and Oregon will carry on to the national title game for the second time in three seasons.

2. Alamo vs. Big 12, Dec. 29, San Antonio

USC. I like the Trojans to win at UCLA this Saturday to win the Pac-12 South. I further like USC to knock off undefeated Notre Dame in the regular-season finale. Even amid a disappointing season, it shouldn’t be hard to motivate this talented group … but, then again, we are talking about Lane Kiffin.

3. Holiday vs. Big 12, Dec. 27, San Diego

UCLA. We’re giving the Bruins a loss to USC and a home win over Stanford to end the regular season at 9-3. The Holiday would jump at UCLA over Oregon State.

4. Sun vs. ACC, Dec. 31, El Paso

Oregon State. The Beavers, who finish with a weather-delayed home game against Nicholls State on Dec. 1, should finish at 9-3. They are home to Cal this weekend before hosting Oregon.

North Conf. W-L Overall W-L
Oregon 7-0 10-0
Stanford 6-1 8-2
Oregon St. 5-2 7-2
Washington 4-3 6-4
California 2-6 3-8
Washington St. 0-7 2-8
South Conf. W-L Overall W-L
UCLA 5-2 8-2
USC 5-3 7-3
Arizona 3-4 6-4
Arizona St. 3-4 5-5
Utah 2-5 4-6
Colorado 1-6 1-9

5. MAACO Bowl Las Vegas vs. MWC, Dec. 22, Las Vegas

Washington. Now, we’re getting into the area in which it is realistic for Arizona to land. That would require Stanford to lose its final two (at Oregon, at UCLA) to finish at 6-3 in the league. Arizona, with wins over Utah and Arizona State, could get to 5-4 with three consecutive wins. But, as noted below, I don’t expect the Cats to win their last two.

Washington, meanwhile, finishes with games against the two worst teams in the conference — Colorado and Washington State. Those game are both on the road, but the Huskies should get to a league record of 6-3 having won five in a row.

6. Kraft Fight Hunger vs. Navy, San Francisco, Dec. 29

Stanford. Seems too low for the Cardinal, which can still win the Pac-12 North, but dropping to this hometown bowl is how the dominoes could realistically fall if it loses its last two.

7. New Mexico vs. MWC, Albuquerque, Dec. 15

Arizona. This is Arizona’s landing spot in many of the bowl projections. That logic makes sense, assuming a loss at Utah and a win vs. Arizona State (which is how I see it). That would give the Wildcats a final mark of 7-5, ahead of potential bowl teams Utah and Arizona State, but with the worst league record among the league’s other bowl-eligible teams.

* * *

It’s worth noting: The Pac-12 bowls don’t have to strictly adhere to the conference standings and are not bound by any tiebreakers the league might use to settle its division champions. In trying to get the best matchup possible, the bowls can select a team within one conference game of the best available team.

For example, if Washington is 6-3 in the league and Arizona is 5-4, the Las Vegas Bowl would not be bound to take the Huskies. They could take the Cats in that scenario … but Vegas wouldn’t have that option if Washington was 6-3 and Arizona was 4-5 — a two-game difference.

Also worth noting: If the Pac-12 has more eligible teams than bowl slots, the excess team(s) almost certainly will get gobbled up as a “replacement” team for another conference that can’t fill its bowl obligations. That postseason destination, however, could inconveniently be all the way across the country.

Here is how several others see Arizona in the postseason:

Sports Illustrated: New Mexico Bowl vs. Nevada

CBSSports.com: New Mexico Bowl vs. Nevada

ESPN.com (Mark Schlabach and Brad Edwards): New Mexico Bowl vs. Nevada

National Football Post: New Mexico Bowl vs. Nevada

ESPN.com (Kevin Gemmell): MAACO Las Vegas vs. Mountain West team

Orlando Sentinel: MAACO Las Vegas vs. Boise State

SportingNews.com: MAACO Las Vegas vs. San Diego State

CollegeFootballNews.com: Sun vs. Georgia Tech

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