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Arizona football: Postseason picture murky after loss to Washington State

Arizona's loss to Washington State imperiled the bowl chances for coach Rich Rodriguez's team. Photo by Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona’s loss to Washington State imperiled the bowl chances for coach Rich Rodriguez’s team. Photo by Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

If the Arizona Wildcats don’t win either of their final two regular-season games, they could be looking at a long-distance bowl trip, if at all.

Instead of being snugly into the postseason with seven victories, the Cats lost at home to Washington State on Saturday, raising the very real possibility of finishing at 6-6 overall and 3-5 in the Pac-12.

Arizona will be an underdog in its final two games — vs. Oregon this Saturday and at Arizona State on Nov. 30 — and, if form holds, will end the regular season on a four-game losing streak.

If that happens, the bowl-eligible Wildcats would figure to be shut out of the Pac-12′s seven bowl slots, hoping to fill a spot as an at-large team in another bowl, probably in another region of the country.

Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com projects Arizona into the Dec. 31 Advocare V100 Bowl (formerly Independence) in Shreveport, La., to replace a team from the SEC, which isn’t likely to fill all 10 of its postseason slots. Palm has the Wildcats facing Georgia Tech.

Five teams have emerged above the rest in the Pac-12. Let’s rank them like this: Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, Arizona State and USC. Much is to be determined, as the Bruins still have to play the Sun Devils and Trojans, but that quintet has an edge on everybody else.

Then there is a group of three that is bowl eligible at 6-4: Oregon State, Washington and Arizona.

Washington State (5-5) can get bowl eligible if it beats Utah at home or Washington on the road.

Utah (4-6) needs to win at WSU and vs. Colorado to be bowl eligible.

Even the Buffs (4-6) can’t completely be counted out, needing to beat USC at home and Utah on the road.

So, anywhere from eight to 10 teams from the Pac-12 can be bowl eligible.

Arizona, unless it pulls off an upset, isn’t likely to be one of the top seven choices from the league, especially because the New Mexico Bowl, which picks last among Pac-12 teams, won’t be keen on taking the Wildcats in back-to-back seasons.

Stanford’s loss at USC on Saturday night didn’t help. The Cardinal was on track to go to the Rose Bowl, which would leave a potential one-loss Oregon team as a BCS at-large team, thereby giving the Pac-12 an additional postseason slot.

Now, the Pac-12 simply figures to send its champ to the Rose Bowl, with no BCS at-large team.

At-large possibilities exist in these smaller bowls:

– Dec. 28 Pinstripe Bowl in New York City (the Big 12 won’t fill its seventh bowl slot).

– Dec. 26 Little Caesars Bowl in Detroit (the Big Ten is unlikely to fill its eighth bowl slot; remember, Penn State is still facing a postseason ban).

– Jan. 1 Heart of Dallas Bowl (the Big Ten probably won’t have a team to send to its seventh-place bowl if it gets two teams into the BCS).

– Dec. 23 Beef O’Brady’s Bowl in St. Petersburg, Fla. (the American Athletic Conference figures to fall short of sending a sixth team to the postseason).

– Dec. 21 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise (with Fresno State possibly headed to a BCS game, the Mountain West might not fill its final bowl obligation).

: A bowl that has an at-large spot must take a team with a winning record over a 6-6 squad, and it’s likely that a few to several 6-6 teams won’t squeeze into a bloated 70-team postseason. … The Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego also has an an-large opening but has a secondary agreement to take a team from the MAC.

Here are the Pac-12′s bowl arrangements, with a stab in the dark as to which team will be going where:

Pac-12 rank Bowl, opponent Date Location Pac-12 projection
Champion Rose Bowl vs. Big Ten/at-large Jan. 1 Pasadena, Calif. Oregon
No. 2 Alamo vs. Big 12 Dec. 30 San Antonio Stanford
No. 3 Holiday vs. Big 12 Dec. 30 San Diego UCLA
No. 4 Sun vs. ACC Dec. 31 El Paso Arizona State
No. 5 Las Vegas vs. MWC Dec. 21 Las Vegas USC
No. 6 Kraft Fight Hunger vs. BYU Dec. 27 San Francisco Washington
No. 7 New Mexico Bowl vs. MWC Dec. 21 Albuquerque Oregon State
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