Now that’s the kind of game I— Hold on, let me get the door.

Hello, Opportunity.

Here we are. We have been waiting for this week and this game. Now we find out just how good this team really is.

The good news is the question hasn’t been answered yet. The season wasn’t going to be won in the first eight games but it certainly could have been lost.

2009 is not lost. The Wildcats did what they needed to do to get to this point in one piece. They won a Pac-10 road game. They won their first five home games, including three consecutive league games.

Don’t just brush that off. They did it. That’s big news! For the first time in Mike Stoops’ tenure the Cats are not going to have an inexcusable loss at home. And when you beat the bad teams at the beginning of the year your games with the good teams mean a lot more at the end of the year.

Isn’t it fun to be scoreboard watching in November? Wasn’t it exciting after our game to have everyone from the head coach to the guy in the last row of the upper deck wanting to keep tabs on the Oregon game?

Oregon beats USC, Stanford beats Oregon, and Arizona keeps winning. To quote the great military strategist John “Hannibal” Smith: “I love it when a plan comes together.”

Only one team failed to hold up its end of the perfect-weekend bargain. Yes, I’m talking to you, Arizona State. If the Sun Devils had found a way to score six more points it would have dropped our USC game into same category as the Cal and ASU games. But as it stands we still need the head-to-head tie-breaker against every potential two-loss team, so both the Oregon and USC games remain must-win.

Obviously we want to beat Cal this Saturday. There’s a winning season at stake and you always want to keep momentum this time of year. But since we got a little help from our friends the Cats have a loss to play with. A mulligan. One press of the reset button.

It eases the tension for one more week. There won’t be do-or-die pressure hanging over the team. The dream will not die in Berkeley. Win or lose the Cats will play the home game against Oregon still alive for the—

I can’t say it. Being this close I can’t bring myself to type the two-word phrase that simultaneously excites and torments the Arizona Football fan. Let’s just say it rhymes with “Nose Hole.”

This is historic stuff. The Wildcats will be going into the tenth game of the season still controlling their own destiny for the Pac-10 championship. Has that ever happened before?

Remember, the 1998 UCLA loss was barely in game six. The Oregon loss in 1994 (the 10-9 score) was in game eight. Everyone remembers the Cal loss in the penultimate game of ’93 but UCLA’s second loss came that same day so the Cats never regained destinal control after the loss to the Bruins in game eight.

The eighth game was also the end of the line in 1986 and 1983. Arizona stayed in the driver’s seat until the ninth game in both 1989 (one-point Cal loss) and 1985 (five-point UCLA loss).

What does this teach us? We don’t hate UCLA nearly enough. But you know the team that’s not on the list? ASU. It’s true; Arizona has never even made it to the final game of the regular season with the Pac-10 championship in its grasp. There’s a reason ASU fans never brag about the times they’ve knocked us out of the Nose Hole.

They might just get their chance this year.

Opportunity is indeed knocking for the first time at the door of Mike Stoops. The assumption is if you can get to this point once you can do it again but you never know. You never want to go out on anything less than your best shot, and our best shot is a home game on November 21.

Can the Stoops-led Cats handle it? In his first five years Stoops has shown he can beat really good teams as the underdog. For the first time we’ll see how he performs against the high-end teams as a potential peer. How his team performs in the “free” game at Cal will be a pretty good indicator.

Please come in, Opportunity. We’ve missed you.