Here are the facts: The University of Arizona football team exceeded all expectations and the Wildcats have had a very successful season.
Here’s another fact: It’s very important for Rich Rodriguez and the Cats to win the Fiesta Bowl.
It sounds greedy. Nobody predicted the UA would be in this position. As recently as with two minutes to go in the Washington game, Arizona looked more like a 7-5 team than a 10-2 team. The Wildcats didn’t become the frontrunners to win the Pac-12 South until Stanford scored its fourth touchdown against UCLA on the final day of the regular season.
You can imagine RichRod shaking his head. We went 6-1 in one-score games. What more do you want?
We The People want one more victory. And there are plenty of reasons why.
You either end the year on a two-game losing streak or you finish with three championships – the Territorial Cup, the Pac-12 South and the Fiesta Bowl. It would be a shame to end a dream season with back-to-back nightmares.
Post the second-winningest season in school history.
It’s no secret that when it comes to football achievements, the UA’s pool is pretty shallow. This is already just the third 10-win Arizona team ever. Only one other Wildcat gridiron squad has won more.
Even up Arizona’s all-time bowl record.
The UA is currently 8-9-1 in bowl games. Balancing that ledger would be a significant achievement considering it took six tries across 69 years to get the first postseason win.
Arizona is 8-6-1 in bowl games since joining Pac-10 with a 6-3 bowl record going back to the last Fiesta Bowl appearance. It’s worth noting that the “football school” up north is only 9-9 in bowls since joining the Pac-10.
Keep Rodriguez’s UA bowl record perfect.
There aren’t a lot of schools that can claim a bowl win in each of the past two seasons. Getting to three straight would get Arizona into even more select company.
Continue RichRod’s bowl roll.
Rodriguez lost his first three bowl games at West Virginia but since then he’s gone 4-1 in the last five bowls he’s coached. That record improves to 5-1 if you count the WVU team that won the Fiesta Bowl after he left for Michigan in 2007 and 6-1 if you include the Wolverine team that won the Sugar Bowl the first year after he was fired. RichRod-built-and/or-coached teams have done very well in bowl games over the past decade.
The Pac-12 South champ has never won its bowl game.
The North division is 4-for-4 in winning the conference championship game and the title game loser is 0-for-3 in bouncing back. The South could use a signature postseason victory.
This isn’t the 2010 Alamo Bowl.
The last time Arizona faced a ranked team in a bowl game the Cats had no business playing a ranked team anywhere. The UA was on a four-game losing streak and playing a 10-2 Oklahoma State squad. The Cowboys played like a big favorite and the Wildcats were steamrolled.
Those days are gone. This team won its way here. The 2014 Cats are playing an 11-win team and Arizona is the favorite. The UA program is now good enough to win a game of this stature.
Get above .500 in Fiesta Bowls.
The 1979 game against Dan Marino and Pitt didn’t go well. The 1994 showdown with Miami went a bit better. Arizona is looking to join six schools that have appeared in multiple Fiesta Bowls and posted a winning record (Boise State being one of them).
Stay undefeated against Mountain West teams in bowls.
New Mexico in the 1997 Insight.com (Copper) Bowl, BYU in the 2008 Vegas Bowl and Nevada in the 2012 New Mexico Bowl. (The ’94 Freedom Bowl doesn’t count because Utah clearly was a Pac-12 team in training.)
Generate some Heisman Trophy buzz heading into next year.
Ka’Deem Carey was 10th in the Heisman voting last year. Scooby Wright was ninth this season. It gives you hope that one day a Wildcat could bring home the stiff-armed hardware. This game is a chance for both Wright and Nick Wilson to get in the minds of voters heading into the offseason.
With all this motivation what could possibly go wrong?
The main fear is the team losing its emotional edge after all the success. Last year the Cats were fired up because Carey got snubbed for major awards and the UA happened to be facing the running back who won. The Arizona defense shut down Boston College’s Andre Williams and the Wildcats ran away with the game in Shreveport.
How can anyone say Arizona is disrespected this year when the team is in the top 10 and Scooby won just about every defensive award under the sun?
The problem is the UA will need to repeat last year’s performance since the Cats are facing the nation’s leading scorer in Bronco running back Jay Ajayi. Will Arizona bring its “Hard Edge” to Glendale or will it be more like the happy-to-be-here squad that went to San Diego in 2009? Can the Wildcats tap back into the embarrassment of the Pac-12 Championship Game loss?
Yes, the 2014 season is already a huge success. Yes, asking for an 11th win is greedy.
Yes, Wildcat players and fans should get greedy.
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