When Arizona State’s final pass attempt fell incomplete Friday afternoon, Rich Rodriguez filled the biggest hole on his Arizona resume.
Winning the Territorial Cup made RichRod’s third UA season great. Adding a division title made 2014 the stuff of dreams.
What does a dream season look like?
Three years ago the UA football program was dormant. When this year’s seniors were freshmen they were losing to everyone from Oregon (by 25) to Colorado (by 19). Now the Wildcats are Territorial Cup Champions and Pac-12 South Champions.
(And special congrats to Anu Solomon on winning his fifth straight state championship!)
Arizona has 10 regular-season victories for just the second time in school history. Dick Tomey’s team went 11-1 in 1998 but his 1993 squad needed the bowl game to hit double-digit wins.
Rodriguez snapped his personal six-game losing streak in rivalry games. He lost his final “Backyard Brawl” at West Virginia in 2007, all three Ohio State games at Michigan and his first two Duels in the Desert.
What does a dream season need?
The UA is now 6-1 in games decided by seven points or fewer this year. And the one loss was a missed field goal as time expired. Call it “luck,” call it “finding a way to win,” but this team has lots of “it.”
Heading into the Utah game the Cats needed four games to all go their way to win the division. They all happened. If you consider each of those four games a coin flip (and Stanford over UCLA was much worse than a coin flip) the odds of winning four straight was only 6.25%.
What does a dream season feel like?
Arizona fans spent the final weekend of the regular season rooting against teams like Florida State, Alabama and Ohio State, not as casual observers, but because those schools are now the Wildcats’ direct competition in the rankings.
The new basement for the season – the very worse-case scenario – is a 10-4 record with a win over Oregon, the Territorial Cup, a division championship and a trip to the Alamo Bowl. That would’ve been a best-case scenario when the season started. Heck, it looked like the best-case two weeks ago.
It’s possible the UA is already too good for another trip to San Antonio. The Pac-12 had five teams in last week’s College Football Playoff rankings and the Cats have beaten three of the other four. Falling to the Ducks on Friday wouldn’t change any of that.
At the other end of the dream rainbow, we are six days away from the playoff selection show and the national media will spend at least four of those days asking if Arizona should be included. And they won’t be laughing when they say it!
Yes, the Arizona Wildcats are very much alive in the playoff race. Breaking it down, if the UA can upset Oregon (again (again)), it looks like the Cats only need one other loss (most likely Ohio State against Wisconsin or Florida State versus Georgia Tech) to make the inaugural bracket.
Just two positive results away from the Football Final Four. Remember it took four perfect results to win the Pac-12 South.
Want to get really crazy? If Arizona wins the conference and gets help in two other games, the UA could be seeded in the top three which would mean a trip to…the Nose Hole.
All of these extreme dreams require a win over Oregon and the Ducks are favored by two touchdowns. If the season ends with a thud don’t let the disappointment detract from what has already been accomplished and the high-profile bowl game that awaits.
But don’t give up on the championship game either. I wouldn’t dare bet against this group of Wildcats. These guys have defied logic and Arizona’s football history all year.
How does a dream season end?
RichRod and his champions are about to show us.
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