As the 2014 college football season approaches, every team is undefeated and every player hopes to win a championship.
The Arizona Wildcats are no exception and today we join them in dreaming. What would have to happen for the UA to realize its goal of winning the Pac-12 South?
Let me make this very clear: This is not any sort of claim that Arizona “should” win the Pac-12. I’m not setting expectations here. That was last week and, as you recall, I’m placing my fan goal at nine wins. Nine wins will not be enough to take this division.
Last week was about trying to be realistic. This week is about letting the imagination wander.
Well, realistically wander anyway. The easy answer to How do you win a championship? is Win all your games, but you would need your eyeballs tattooed with red and blue ink to predict that in Tucson this year. So we start with the best-case scenario for the 2014 Cats:
Opponent Best-Case Result
at Oregon L
at WSU W
at UCLA L
at Utah W
The question then becomes: What would it take for that 7-2 conference record to be good enough to win the South?
The major hurdle is projecting a loss to UCLA. How are you supposed to win your division with a head-to-head loss against the odds-on favorite? You get a little help from your friends. The Bruins may very well be the best team in the Pac-12 South but they also have to navigate what is arguably the toughest schedule in the nation.
UCLA joins Colorado and Utah as the only South teams to play both Oregon and Stanford this year, and the Bruins’ “warm-up” game is a trip to Dallas to play Texas. There just isn’t a lot of breathing room for the boys from Westwood.
It’s possible that UCLA is a top-10 team but what if Oregon and Stanford both end up being in the top five? That’s two Bruin losses right there. Add in an upset loss in a hostile environment (at ASU or Washington?) and it doesn’t matter if UCLA holds the tiebreaker against a hypothetically-two-loss Arizona team.
Think about that for a minute: If UCLA does lose to Oregon, Stanford and Washington, the Bruins could go undefeated against the South and still not win the division. And that’s why the SEC only plays eight conference games.
What about ASU, the defending South champs? Even if the Sun Devils pull off the upset against UCLA they have to play at USC the very next week. And Stanford in the following game. And a trip to Seattle seven days later. It’s not hard to find multiple losses in the month of October alone.
That leaves USC among the Pac-12 South contenders. We’ve already given them a loss to UCLA and the Trojans have to play at Stanford the second week of the season (thanks, Notre Dame game!). Tack on a defeat against the UA (RichRod has never lost to USC in Tucson!) and there you are.
Here’s your clip-and-save backdoor roadmap to a UA title:
ARIZONA loses at Oregon, at UCLA
UCLA loses at ASU, vs Oregon, vs Stanford
ASU loses at USC, vs Stanford, at Arizona
USC loses at Stanford, at Arizona, at UCLA
In other words, root for Stanford and Oregon to be elite and hope everyone plays really well at home.
Probable? Of course not. But why not dream during the last week in August?
Improbable and Not That Likely are still undefeated this time of year.
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