UA optimism flew the coop a while ago.
Photo by Chris Morrison/US Presswire

This is the biggest bowl game of Mike Stoops’ career.

Was that dramatic enough for you?

The thing is…it’s true.

The 2008 Vegas Bowl was a celebration. The Arizona Wildcats’ decade-long bowl drought was over. A three-year losing streak to ASU had ended. Wildcat Universe would’ve quickly gotten over a loss to a strong BYU team.

Last year’s Holiday Bowl was dessert on an already-tasty cake. The 2009 season was a success. Finishing tied for 2nd with a new starting quarterback posting road wins against USC and ASU gave UA fans every reason to be optimistic about 2010 no matter what happened in San Diego.

This year? Optimism skipped town a couple months ago.

It’s easy to argue the season is already a major disappointment and the bowl game doesn’t matter. Losing conference record. Three home losses. The two biggest blowout Pac-10 losses in four years. An I-can’t-believe-what-I-just-saw loss in the Territorial Cup game.

One win over a Big 12 team doesn’t erase five Pac-10 losses, but it would help a lot. Think of it this way: If Arizona wins its home games and goes 10-2 where do the Wildcats play? The Alamo Bowl. So even if the journey up to this point has been a bunch of valleys the Cats can still finish on a peak.

Now the question is: How?

It’s one thing to say this is a huge game, or go so far as to stomp your feet and call it “must-win” but that doesn’t change the fact that the UA is a sizable underdog.

The main reason (besides Arizona having 2.5 times the losses of Oklahoma State) is the Cowboys lead the nation in total offense. Let me repeat that: THIS OFFENSE IS BETTER THAN OREGON’S.

Receiver Justin Blackmon had at least 100 yards and a touchdown in every game he played. Running back Kendall Hunter has two 1,500-yard seasons. Quarterback Brandon Weeden has more touchdowns than his age, and he’s 27 years old!

In order for Arizona to compete in this game – at the absolute minimum – Nick Foles has to be incredible. We’re talking something in the neighborhood of 400 passing yards and four touchdowns.

There was more than enough blame to go around against Nebraska last year but Foles set the tone with his horrible throw on the opening series. Facing 3rd-and-10 he badly underthrew a fade that resulted in an easy interception which led to an easy touchdown which led to a long wet night for the Wildcat faithful. The QB from Texas needs to start fast, finish fast and be very fast in between.

Everyone else on the UA side needs to make the plays that present themselves. If the ball hits Terrence Miller’s hands down the middle of the field he needs to catch it. If the ball lands in Joe Perkins’ arms he needs to grab it. If somebody gets a shot at Weeden he needs to bring him down on first contact.

That’s how the Cats hung with Oregon for most of three quarters: playing boldly, making big hits and forcing turnovers.

The goal is to get to the end of the game with the ball in Nick Foles’ hands with a chance to win.

Just make sure you’re only down five this time.

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With the unveiling of this year’s bowl uniforms it appears as if Mike Stoops stumbled across last year’s advice. Blue-on-blue-on-white gives Arizona the best chance to win. The numbers don’t lie:

Arizona’s record under Mike Stoops…by color

HELMET JERSEY PANTS RECORD
Blue Blue White 5-0
White Blue White 1-0
White White Blue 1-0
White Red Red 3-1
Blue Blue Blue 5-3
Blue Red Blue 3-3
White White Red 1-1
Blue Red White 4-5
Blue White Blue 6-8
Blue Red Red 2-3
Blue White Red 2-3
Blue White White 3-6
White Blue Blue 0-1
White Red White 0-1 (2-for-4 on PATs)
White White White 0-33

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Can’t make it to the Alamo Bowl? Ride shotgun here for all 1,736 miles from Tucson to San Antonio and back.

That’s right: shotgun. The cheap-seats lifestyle includes the open road, sleeping on couches, and tickets closer to the top of the dome than the field.

But we wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Scott Terrell probably doesn’t know what he’s getting himself into. Get updates from mile after glorious mile on Twitter.