Austin Hill

Where will Austin Hill and the winning-season Wildcats be playing this December?
Photo by Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE

This just feels like a really good win.

Arizona takes its 0-3 road record (allowing 56 points per game away from home)…against a desperate team…with a 4-1 home record…on its senior night…in cold, wet conditions…with injured defensive players falling like raindrops…with a rusty, nauseasy quarterback…and Arizona wins.

The victory in Salt Lake City locked up a winning season for the Wildcats and improved the team’s bowl standing. Now the problem is trying to figure out where exactly the Cats will be standing in the postseason.

When you begin thinking about all of Arizona’s bowl possibilities you start to feel like Matt Scott after too much Gatorade and too many running plays. The bowl picture becomes much clearer if you accept the following assumptions:

Oregon (10-1), Stanford (9-2), Oregon State (8-2) and UCLA (9-2) will all be selected before Arizona. For the sake of this exercise and unnecessary alliteration, we’ll call them the Fit Four.
Washington will beat Wazzu to finish 8-4.

So if Arizona beats ASU to get to 8-4 the Wildcats will be competing with Washington and USC for bowl position (no matter what the brand-name Trojans do against Notre Dame). It’s also safe to assume that ASU will get selected ahead of Arizona if the Devils beat the Cats and both teams finish 7-5.

The major determining factor in who goes where is whether or not the Pac-12 gets a second team into the BCS bowls. If Stanford beats UCLA to win the North and Oregon beats OSU to finish 11-1, Oregon would be in line for a BCS at-large bid (like the one that put 11-1 Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl last year). The remaining members of the Fit Four would then land in the Rose, Alamo and Holiday Bowls.

If Oregon fades and the Pac-12 only ends up with one BCS team, the Fit Four would occupy the Rose/Alamo/Holiday/Sun and the competition among the middle of the Pac would start there.

Add it up and here are the UA’s bowl scenarios from the best case to the worst:

Sun Bowl – Mon. Dec. 31

Here’s what has to happen for the Wildcats to end up in El Paso:

• Pac-12 gets two BCS bids
• Notre Dame beats USC
• Arizona beats ASU

It’s possible a 7-5 USC team still gets picked over 8-4 Arizona but we’re going to say the Sun Bowl chooses the geographically closer team that has won five of its last six games as opposed to the terribly disappointing team that lost four of its last five.

Las Vegas Bowl – Sat. Dec. 22

There are two ways for the Cats to get back to Vegas for the second time in five years:

• Pac-12 gets two BCS bids
• Sun Bowl selects USC or Washington
• Vegas Bowl takes Arizona over the other one

Or:

• Pac-12 gets one BCS bid
• Vegas Bowl takes Arizona ahead of both USC and Washington

Fight Hunger Bowl – Sat. Dec. 29

Dreaming of December in San Francisco? You want:

• Pac-12 gets two BCS bids
• Sun/Vegas select USC/Washington
• Arizona goes to Fight Hunger

Or:

• Pac-12 gets one BCS bid
• Vegas Bowl selects USC or Washington
• Hunger Game takes Arizona over the other one

New Mexico Bowl – Sat. Dec. 15

The options are:

• Pac-12 gets two BCS bids
• ASU beats Arizona
• Sun/Vegas/Hunger select USC/Washington/ASU
• Arizona is only eligible Pac team left

Or:

• Pac-12 gets one BCS bid
• Arizona beats ASU
• Vegas/Hunger select USC/Washington
• Arizona goes to New Mexico, even with an 8-4 record

Your worst-case scenario:

• Pac-12 gets one BCS bid
• Arizona loses to ASU
• Vegas/Hunger/New Mexico select USC/Washington/ASU
• Arizona gets shipped to a random bowl that needs a team

I have no doubt a seven-win Pac team finds a bowl home somewhere (I also believe a 6-6 ASU squad would still get an invite) but it’ll take one more win to guarantee the Cats stay out west.

As if Wildcat Universe needs any more incentive this week.

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Scott Terrell strains his brain so you don’t have to. Root for the bowl of your choice on Twitter and Facebook.