RichRod New Mexico Bowl trophy

This weekend’s trophy determines next month’s trophy. Photo by Wildcat Universe

The Arizona Wildcats’ loss to Oregon drastically reduced the number of logical bowl destinations for Khalil Tate and the 2017 Cats. In fact, it looks like the UA and Arizona State are playing for the exact same bowl.

Fact: The best Arizona can do is an 8-4 overall record with a 6-3 conference record.

Fact: USC, Washington and Washington State have already locked up better records than that.

Fact: If Stanford loses to Notre Dame the Cardinal will be 8-4 / 7-2 (and Pac-12 North Champs if WSU loses to Washington).

Here’s the Pac-12 bowl selection order:

1. New Year’s Six
2. Alamo (San Antonio)
3. Holiday (San Diego)
4. Foster Farms (San Francisco)
5. Sun (El Paso)
6. Las Vegas
7. Cactus (Phoenix)

Assumption: The Pac-12 will only place one team (its champion) in the New Year’s Six bowls.

Assumption: USC, Washington and Washington State will all be selected before Arizona. Bowls want three things from their participants: the best possible record, a large traveling fan base and a brand name. Arizona offers none of these.

Assumption: Stanford will fall no further than the “hometown” Chicken Bowl, even at 8-4.

Fact: Starting with the Sun, the remaining bowls have to pick in order based on conference record.

Fact: The best Oregon can do is a 4-5 conference record even after beating Oregon State to finish 7-5.

Fact: The Arizona / ASU winner will have a 6-3 Pac-12 record; the loser will be 5-4.

Prediction: The winner of the Territorial Cup will play in the Sun Bowl on Fri. Dec. 29 and the loser will play in Las Vegas on Sat. Dec. 16.

So that Oregon loss was more costly than expected. A 9-3 Arizona team would have been in play for every bowl from the Holiday on down. Now the Pac-12’s top four bowls are out of reach and the Cats might get stuck playing on the first bowl weekend again.

At first glance this Saturday’s loser gets the better prize. Vegas vs. El Paso isn’t a fair fight. But the Sun Bowl is against an ACC team, and could feature last year’s Heisman Trophy winner.

The Vegas Bowl features the Mountain West champ, which is currently looking like an 11-2 Boise State team that would be on a nine-game winning stream. Even if the 7-5 Pac-12 team were to pull off the upset, it would still “only” be a win over the Mountain West. Bowls against non-Power-Five schools are always lose-lose propositions.

Add in an extra two weeks of preparation and the added prestige of playing closer to New Year’s and you absolutely want to win this Saturday.

As if the Territorial Cup game needed any extra fire.

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