Now we’re going to talk about it. A lot.
The Arizona Wildcats won their third straight game on Saturday to stay in contention in the Pac-12 South. A win this week would open up some very intriguing possibilities in the race for the division title.
Here are all those possibilities. And none of them involves beating Oregon.
Before conference play began we looked at the best-case scenario for the Cats. You’ll notice that everything has happened exactly as laid out with the exception of Arizona losing at USC. But, since the Trojans had already given that loss back against Washington State, the UA has a chance to overcome the USC’s head-to-head disadvantage.
To map it out we start with Arizona’s new Best-Case Scenario (the other BCS) which looks like this:
ARIZONA – WU’s 2013.5 BCS Projections (6-3)
Budgeting a loss to the Ducks seems prudent, so to give the Wildcats the division everyone else needs at least three losses. Oregon and Stanford pinned the first two on UCLA so no other help is needed with the Bruins:
UCLA – WU’s 2013.5 BCS Projections (6-3)
Having UCLA sweep ASU and USC may be a bigger stretch than losing in Tucson at this point but it’s necessary in order to give the Sun Devils a second Pac-12 defeat before the Territorial Cup game:
Arizona State – WU’s 2013.5 BCS Projections (6-3)
Utah and Oregon State have combined to lose four straight games so I wouldn’t count on them to beat anybody moving forward. It’s going to have to be ASU riding high at 6-1 in Pac-12 play (an unpleasant thought) before crashing and burning in the final two games (a glorious thought).
The leaves the one Pac-12 South team that owns the tiebreaker with the Cats:
USC – WU’s 2013.5 BCS Projections (5-4)
If the above scenarios come to pass Arizona, UCLA and Arizona State would be tied for first in the Pac-12 South with 6-3 conference records. The first three-team tiebreaker is record against the other tri-champions. ASU would be eliminated due to having lost to both the Bruins and Wildcats, and Arizona would be the South’s Pac-12 Championship Game representative because it beat UCLA head-to-head.
USC beating UCLA to replace the Bruins in the three-way doesn’t work because the tiebreakers would go against Arizona. USC, ASU and the UA would all be 1-1 against each other so the next tiebreaker is record against Pac-12 South teams. ASU would be 3-2 compared to 4-1 for Arizona and USC so ASU would be eliminated. You then revert back to the two-team tiebreaker and USC’s head-to-head prevails.
However, the Cats would win a four-team tiebreaker. If USC beats Stanford at home and nothing else changes above, the Trojans, Wildcats, Bruins and Sun Devils would all be 6-3 in conference play. ASU and USC would be eliminated due to being 1-2 against the other co-champs (quarto-champs?) and the UA would advance to the P12CG by virtual of having beaten UCLA.
Arizona would also have tiebreaker power if UCLA loses to Washington and USC beats Stanford (UA’s 4-1 South record besting USC and ASU at 3-2), or if UCLA loses to Washington and USC loses to Stanford (UA two-way tie with ASU and Arizona owning the head-to-head).
So the UCLA/Washington and USC/Stanford games don’t matter and it boils down to five games going exactly the Wildcats’ way:
- ARIZONA beats UCLA, WSU, ASU.
- UCLA beats ASU and USC.
In other words, the Cats need to beat UCLA and then become the Bruins’ biggest fans.
In other other words, there is one large college football game in Tucson this Saturday.
The last time a game of this magnitude was played at Arizona Stadium was four years ago this month, the ESPN College GameDay showdown with Oregon in 2009. To me, this was the peak of the Mike Stoops era. Some may point to 2010 when the Wildcats were 4-0 (ranked No. 9) or 7-1 (ranked No. 15) but those were fools’ peaks because we know how that season ended.
The absolute pinnacle of Stoops’ UA tenure was the moment Juron Criner crossed the goal line on the 71-yard catch-and-run from Nick Foles to take a 31-24 lead midway through the fourth quarter. At that second the Wildcats had their paws on the conference championship.
We all know how that game ended and Wildcat Universe has waited four years and a coaching change for another shot.
That is the opportunity Arizona has this Saturday. This team has survived playing four of its first five Pac-12 games on the road and has earned a week of anticipation and attention. (Well, half a week of attention since everyone will be focusing on Oregon at Stanford until Thursday.)
It only took Rich Rodriguez two games last year to bring hope back to the Arizona program. Now, in just his 22nd game at the UA he and his Wildcats have their first chance to do something big.
All it takes is one best-case scenario coming true.
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