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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Arizona football should still head to a big bowl

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Rich Rodriguez’s day job is Arizona head football coach, but he also dabbles in predicting the future.

After the No. 7/8 Wildcats (10-3) had their second bye week he warned that the six games in six weeks they had to end the regular season would be tough. While Arizona won five of those, he was absolutely correct.

Rodriguez warned that the Wildcats would rack up injuries and they did, most notably to starting quarterback Anu Solomon, who missed much of the game at Utah and the Pac-12 Championship Game with an ankle injury.

Plus, while the Wildcats were wildly successful, winning the best division in college football, they are still very much a work in progress. Their starting quarterback is a freshman, their No. 1 running back is a true freshman and their middle linebacker is a true sophomore.

They don’t have the depth yet to run a six game gauntlet like that.

Then they got a seventh game in seven weeks, a matchup against a vengeful No. 2 Oregon squad that the Wildcats embarrassed in Autzen Stadium on national TV. The Ducks are not only an established program that has depth, but their 47-19 win over Oregon State last week was pretty much a bye and they had an actual bye three weeks ago.

Arizona was in an unenviable spot, besides facing a talented Oregon side thirsty for revenge. A loss was likely and in retrospect, a blowout like this after two huge highs at Utah and versus ASU shouldn’t have been a shock.

Arizona entered the Pac-12 Championship Game ranked seventh in the College Football Playoff rankings. They’ve gotten so high that many thought they could make the four-team playoff and, at a minimum, they secured a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl game if they didn’t.

However, the 51-13 spanking they received in the Pac-12 Championship Game has led some to wonder if the Pac-12 South champions will have to settle for the Alamo Bowl instead of the Fiesta or Cotton Bowls.

“I really don’t know, to win the Pac-12 South, is a great accomplishment,” Rodriguez said about their bowl chances. “It could be the toughest division in college football, so I’m proud that we got that. We should be in a very, very good bowl and I think our fans will travel well.”

This season, the New Year’s Six bowl system debuts. The Rose and Sugar Bowls will serve as semifinals for the College Football Playoff and the CFP committee will pick the teams for the remaining four New Year’s Six games: the Fiesta, Cotton, Peach and Orange Bowls.

The committee is tasked with picking the eight teams for those four bowl games. Some of those are already spoken for, like conference champions from the big five conferences get into New Year’s Six games but generally they can pick the teams they want for the games.

They are supposed to “create competitive matchups,” avoid regular season rematches and repeat appearances and “consider geography.”

Considering those factors and the mandate to make bowls that are fun to watch, Arizona should still be in the Fiesta or Cotton Bowls.

If the Wildcats remain in the top 11, they are assured of a spot in a New Year’s Six Bowl. For Arizona to drop to 12, they would have to fall five spots, which would be far too much for a team that lost to the No. 2 team.

Actually, they beat the Ducks in Eugene, Ore., then-No. 17 ASU at home and then-No. 23 Utah on the road. If beating Oregon again could have put them in the top four, moving up three spots, the Wildcats shouldn’t drop five spots for losing.

The circumstances, having to beat a team as good—or pissed off—as Oregon, should be considered as well. If Arizona didn’t make the Pac-12 Championship game, they would securely be in the Fiesta or Cotton Bowls. Thus making the loss basically punishment for playing a 13th game, while a team like No. 8 Michigan State, which also lost to Oregon, would take their spot because they were on the couch instead of playing their seventh game in a row.

Arizona doesn’t have any bad losses; the No. 2 Ducks, No. 15 UCLA on the road and No. 25 USC on a missed field goal.

The Fiesta Bowl would be perfect for Arizona. While it is just down the road, the Wildcats haven’t been there since 1994.

No matter where the Wildcats go, they’ll be a different team than the one that limped into the title game and that should be a factor as well.

“We got to wait three and half weeks or whatever it is to play, but I think our guys will be fired up where ever we go and compete really well,” Rodriguez said.

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