I like rivalries. I’ve always belonged to the “My second favorite team is whoever’s playing [Team I Can’t Stand]” school of fandom. If my team can’t succeed the next best thing is watching my team’s biggest rival fail.

So the moral dilemma becomes: Is it ever acceptable to hope your team loses in order to keep your rival from winning a championship?

As we discussed a couple days ago the salt in the ASU wound is that a Wildcat win against Cal on Thursday would be a big benefit to the Sun Devils. Would it be so bad if the Cats didn’t win this one?

Now, for the record, I’ve already said I want the UA to beat Cal, even if it helps ASU. I want a winning record and a spot in a tournament of some kind (even if Sean Miller doesn’t necessarily agree).

But what if you don’t have anything left to play for? Say you’re Stanford. You’re in seventh place and you have a losing overall record so you’re not making a postseason tournament. Is it OK if their fans want to lose to ASU on Thursday so the Devils can catch (and maybe pass) the hated Berkeley Bears?

It’s not uncommon for fans of pro sports to root against their team. The more you lose the better your draft pick. You don’t think Cleveland Cavalier fans are happy they tanked to get the #1 pick in 2003?

It’s different in college. In college sports losing gets you a worst draft pick, so to speak. Recruiting is the name of the game and the best players want to play for the best teams. Winning late-season games can help a coach sell his program as being a couple players away from turning things around.

I don’t think coaches and players would ever consider losing to hurt a rival. Competitors are wired to compete. Beat the guy in front of you. That’s it. But fans have other motives, like bragging rights (or the lack thereof) over co-workers and family.

Bottom line? I think I would do it. Championships far outweigh individual games, and if my team had nothing to gain I would rather take away something precious from the bad guys. The pain of a losing team losing another game wouldn’t be as great as the pain of watching your rival celebrate a huge accomplishment, having to listen to a full year of boasting, and staring at a lifetime of bumper stickers and t-shirts.

So it’s a good thing Arizona has something to play for. Beat Cal.

– – – – –

On to TWIT-Pac. Now in a new-and-improved format!

Thu. Feb. 25 (all times Arizona/Mountain)

Road Team Home Team Time TV
ARIZONA Cal 7 p.m. ESPN
ASU Stanford 8 p.m.
Oregon USC 8:30 p.m.
OSU UCLA 9 p.m. FSN

Sat. Feb. 27

Road Team Home Team Time TV
ASU Cal 1 p.m. FSN
Oregon UCLA 3 p.m. PT
ARIZONA Stanford 5 p.m. FSAZ
OSU USC 5:30 p.m. PT
Washington WSU 8 p.m. FSNW

Thu. Feb. 25
ARIZONA (13-13 / 7-7) at Cal (18-9 / 10-5)
No team has ever won the Pac-10 with six conference losses. It would be fitting to break that record this year.

ASU (19-8 / 9-5) at Stanford (13-14 / 7-8)
Only one team won two games last week: Stanford. On the road. Reason number 23,861 why this is a strange year.

Oregon (12-14 / 4-10) at USC (16-10 / 8-6)
The Dead Men Walking won’t be in the postseason but they could still win a regular season title as a consolation prize.

OSU (12-14 / 6-8) at UCLA (12-14 / 7-7)
The Beavers beat Arizona and Cal back-to-back, then lost to Stanford. Makes sense to me!

Sat. Feb. 27
ASU at Cal
This is supposed to the de facto championship game. Will Thursday night’s results change that?

Oregon at UCLA
The Bruins won by 20 last Thursday. They lost by 29 on Saturday. You might say they peaked too soon.

ARIZONA at Stanford
Just Stanford’s luck: They finally win their first two road games and now they have to play at home the rest of the way.

OSU at USC
Beware the Beaver-stink!

Washington at WSU
Three straight road games to end the year for the one-road-win wonders.

Cal is just three games away from winning the championship. They wouldn’t blow it at home where they’ve won five straight.

Would they?