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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Arizona’s bowl hopes slim

    More than just the Arizona football team’s pride took a major hit Saturday with the team’s 28-14 loss to ASU.

    The Wildcats also failed to earn a seventh regular-season win that would have clinched the team a spot in either the Las Vegas or Emerald bowl.

    The loss also crippled Arizona in the at-large postseason picture, with numerous 7-5 teams across the nation waiting in the wings.

    The Wildcats can now make the Dec. 24 Hawaii Bowl depending on the outcome of Saturday’s matchup between UCLA and No. 2 USC, who has a shot at a national championship game berth with a win, and the Dec. 19 Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego only if no team with a better record is selected ahead of them.

    “”We’d love the opportunity,”” Arizona head coach Mike Stoops said Saturday about the Wildcats’ chances of garnering the program’s first bowl game since 1998. “”The kids would really enjoy it. We’d benefit from it.””

    Should the Bruins defeat the Trojans, they would prevent Arizona (6-6, 4-5 Pacific 10 Conference) from making one of the six bowl games with which the Pac-10 is affiliated.

    A loss to USC would put UCLA (6-5, 4-4) in a five-way tie for fourth place in the conference, but two teams in that mix, Oregon (7-5, 4-5) and ASU (7-5, 4-5), must be picked for a bowl, at-large or otherwise, before any 6-6 squad because both teams have seven wins.

    Thus a Bruins defeat would drop them into a de-facto three-team tie for sixth place in the conference with Arizona and Washington State (6-6, 4-5).

    Whoever gets awarded a trip to Honolulu or San Diego would then be up to the discretion of the bowl’s committee members, as Pac-10 tiebreaker rules do not apply.

    “”We have to wait and see until next week,”” Stoops said. “”If UCLA wins, then they’re in and we’re out.””

    Officials from the Poinsettia and Hawaii bowls could not be reached for comment yesterday, but UA athletic director Jim Livengood mentioned two factors last week that could make the Wildcats a more attractive bowl game choice than UCLA or Washington State.

    The biggest is Arizona’s postseason drought.

    The Wildcats last made a bowl game in 1998, whereas both the Bruins and Cougars have been to one in the last three seasons.

    Along those same lines, Livengood said, UA fans would be hungriest to make the trip to San Diego or Honolulu and could create the most local revenue in hotels, restaurants and other tourist locations on top of ticket sales.

    Simple geography, however, could oppose an Arizona selection.

    While Tucson fans would have to spend less time in an airplane traveling to Honolulu than those coming from Pullman, Wash., the 8 1/2-hour haul would still be longer than that for Los Angeles fans. And San Diego is only a two-hour drive from the UCLA campus.

    Bowl committee members want as high a visiting turnout as possible, Livengood said, which could play in the Bruins’ favor with both of the Wildcats’ potential bowls.

    “”(Members) want the stadium to be full,”” Livengood said. “”They want TV to perceive that it’s a big game.””

    CBS Sportsline’s most recent postseason predictions, updated online Saturday night, have Arizona facing Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl, set to be televised on ESPN at 6 p.m.

    CBS Sportsline has the Mountain West Conference’s No. 2 team, Texas Christian, meeting at-large Northern Illinois (7-5) in the Poinsettia Bowl, which will be broadcast on ESPN2 at 6 p.m.

    Like Stoops, Wildcat players avoided speculating much Saturday on whether they would play again this year, but some said this recent loss could help them if they do.

    Linebacker Spencer Larsen said it reduces the expectations that came with the Wildcats riding a three-game winning streak into the weekend.

    “”We have something to prove again,”” he said. “”We have nothing to lose. We (would) have one game. It’s a lot easier preparing for one game.””

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