The Arizona Wildcats erased all fear of a post-USC hangover by building leads of 31-0 and 52-16 before beating Washington State by three touchdowns. That win, coupled with USC’s loss to Utah, allowed the UA to regain control of its destiny in the Pac-12 South.
It is a perch that has been occupied by multiple teams for varying lengths of time providing maximum chaos.
“Controlling your own destiny” is one of those sports phrases that doesn’t make sense since destiny implies a lack of individual control but that’s the term we’ve got. It means a team can reach its goal by winning its own games and not requiring outside help.
The race to win the Pac-12 South has been a mess thus far with different teams climbing into (and falling out of) the driver’s seat. Join us as we take a week-by-week look at the diversity that has driven this division:
No conference games.
Everyone’s undefeated! Yay!
No South teams lost so nothing changed.
Controlled Own Destiny: Everyone but Colorado
Times were simpler then. UCLA was thought to be great, ASU’s defense was thought to be horrible, ergo the Bruins crushed the Devils.
Controlled Own Destiny: Everyone but Colorado and ASU
Here’s where things started getting wacky. The Sun Devils used a Hail Mary (copycatting the Cats) to beat USC so the Trojans needed ASU to lose, ASU needed UCLA to lose and UCLA needed Utah to lose.
Controlled Own Destiny: UA, Utah
Utah beat UCLA and…oh no!
Controlled Own Destiny: ASU, Utah
The South went 3-0 against the North (and USC beat Colorado) so nothing changed.
Controlled Own Destiny: ASU, Utah
The Utes completed a sweep of L.A. which was sweet for the Wildcats.
Controlled Own Destiny: UA, ASU, Utah
How crazy is this division? Utah has never relinquished control even though though the Utes lost their first league game and were alone in fourth place two weeks ago. That’s what happens when you’re undefeated against your division foes.
(By the way, if you’re wondering where the UA would be in the national picture without that missed field goal against USC, Ute fans are wondering the same thing about blowing a 21-point lead – and 13-point fourth-quarter advantage – to Wazzu. Yeek.)
Utah will, however, need to beat somebody from the North. If the Utes were to lose to both Oregon and Stanford they could go 5-0 versus the South and still not win the division.
Arizona has the opposite problem. The Wildcats are a tidy 3-1 in Pac-12 play but have yet to beat any of their South rivals. That’s what makes this upcoming game against UCLA so crucial. You can’t drop to 0-2 against your fellow contenders in a race that’s going to come down to tiebreakers and continue to call yourself a contender.
That’s the bottom line: Beating UCLA is absolutely necessary if the Cats want to stay in the race. This game is must-win.
After that, Colorado and Washington are the weakest teams left on the UA’s schedule so those games are also must-win. But you can’t must-win them unless you win against must-win UCLA.
One more thing: The UCLA game is must-win.
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The significance of the victory over Washington State is it was the first Arizona game this year with a different result than last year. In 2013 the Wildcats went 3-0 in non-conference games, beat Cal and Oregon and lost to USC, just like this year. Losing to Wazzu again would have caused an uneasy feeling with UCLA, Washington and ASU still on the schedule.
To stray from last season’s script – and to do so by replacing a loss with a win – is one more sign of the program’s maturation and headed-in-the-right-direction-ness under Rich Rodriguez. Beating the Bruins for the first time would be another such sign.
And a must-win.
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