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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Breaking down the newly top ten Arizona football’s playoff chances

Tyler Baker

The Arizona Wildcats celebrate Arizona freshman running back Nick Wilson’s (28) touchdown during Arizona’s 31-24 win against Oregon at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore., on Thursday. In the first season of the college playoff system, football head coach Rich Rodriguez has a chance to make the Final Four before UA men’s basketball head coach Sean Miller.

After one of the wildest weeks in college football history, it’s time to think the unthinkable: that Rich Rodriguez could make the Final Four before Sean Miller.

Unranked last week, No. 10 Arizona football (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12 Conference) kicked off the upset-filled week six of college football on Thursday night with a historic 31-24 win at then-No. 2 Oregon (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12). Five of the top eight teams in the AP rankings, which date back to 1936, lost for the first time ever, and that was only the second time ever that 11 ranked teams lost in one week.

Plus, all four ranked of the teams in the Pac-12 that were ranked last week — Oregon, then-No. 8 UCLA, then-No. 14 Stanford and then-No. 16 USC lost. The Cardinal, the Ducks, Bruins and Trojans lost to unranked teams.

The Wildcats entered the top 10 for the first time since 2010 and are ranked for the first time since 2012. Arizona is No. 13 in the coaches’ poll. The first College Football Playoff Selection Committee rankings will be released Oct. 28.

As the last remaining undefeated team in the Pac-12, the Wildcats are now in the discussion for big time college football’s first ever playoff.

To make it to the four-team playoffs, the Wildcats will probably have to go undefeated, as their nonconference schedule is not going to impress the selection committee. UNLV is 1-5, only beating FCS Northern Colorado, UTSA is 1-4, having lost four in a row and Nevada is 3-2.

However, going undefeated is totally doable for the Wildcats, who won their toughest game of the season at Oregon.

This week they face USC, who is good, but their defense looked god awful when they gave up three touchdowns in the last 3:53 to a struggling ASU team. The potent Arizona offense should rout the Trojans like the Greeks did to Troy in the Trojan War.

Then there is a trip to Washington State, which is tough because of the remoteness of Pullman, Wash., but the 2-4 Cougars lost to Oregon and Nevada, plus Rutgers of the Little Ten Conference.

After that, the Wildcats travel to No. 18 UCLA, which has only looked like a potential Pac-12 South champion in one game this year and lost on Saturday at home to a Utah side that blew a 21-point lead at home to WSU.

After a Homecoming date with hard luck Colorado (2-4, 0-3), the Wildcats host Washington, which has zero impressive wins on its resume, beating 1-4 Hawaii, FCS Eastern Washington, 3-3 Illinois and 1-4 Georgia State.

The Wildcats travel to Utah for their final road trip, which will be tough. But the weather for the Nov. 22 game figures to be the toughest part of the trip since the Utes’ embarrassing Wazzu loss.

Arizona wraps up the regular season with archrival No. 20 ASU. The Sun Devils have beaten Rodriguez twice and defeated USC on a Hail Mary, so it is going to be a tough game, but they did give up 62 points at home to a less than impressive UCLA offense.

The last game before the bowls would be the Pac-12 Championship game at the 49ers’ new digs, and the Pac-12 North is utter chaos, so that’s hard to predict. Right now, their representative would be California, which didn’t beat an FBS team last year and gave up 36 points to Arizona in the fourth quarter.

The thought of UA football playing for a national championship sounds incredible, but so did a freshman winning the Heisman Trophy, and two in a row have won it now.

Freshmen can do big things, so don’t write off the Wildcats just because quarterback Anu Solomon is a rookie. The men’s basketball team won its national championship with freshman point guard Mike Bibby.


Follow James Kelley on Twitter.

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