The Arizona Wildcats sit at 5-2 for the 2013 college football season, riding a two-game win streak following victories over Utah (at home) and at Colorado. One more victory, and the Wildcats will be going to a bowl game for the second straight year, something that has never happened in the first two seasons under a new coach.
The schedule plays out so that Arizona should finish with at least seven wins. But it isn't hoping to just make another bowl, like last year, when it represented the Pac-12 Conference in the New Mexico Bowl as the league's eighth-best option. Depending on how their final five games go—as well as how others in the Pac-12 South perform—the Wildcats could win the division or finish toward the bottom.
Here's a look at Arizona's remaining games:
- Nov. 2 at California (1-7, 0-5)
- Nov. 9 vs. UCLA (5-2, 2-2)
- Nov. 16 vs. Washington State (4-4, 2-3)
- Nov. 23 vs. Oregon (8-0, 5-0)
- Nov. 30 at Arizona State (5-2, 3-1)
Arizona has had a tradition over the last decade of beating a team each season it probably shouldn't have, and usually at home. The 2012 Wildcats knocked off two ranked opponents at home (Oklahoma State, USC), while in 2011, they downed Arizona State despite being 2-8 at the time.
The two best opponents remaining on the schedule both come to Tucson, with UCLA visiting on Nov. 9, and then unbeaten Oregon coming to town on Nov. 23. Winning against UCLA, on Homecoming along with likely wins at California and home against Washington State, would put the Wildcats at 8-2 heading into the Oregon game.
Arizona has had close calls with the Ducks over the years, most notably in 2009 when it led 31-24 in the final minute, prompting the Zona Zoo student section to start jumping out of the bleachers in anticipation of rushing the field.
Oregon scored with less than 30 seconds left, forcing overtime, then won in the extra session.
Considering how well the Ducks are playing, and how easily they handled the hostile atmosphere of Husky Stadium against Washington last month, it's too far-fetched at this point to include a win over Oregon in Arizona's best-case scenario.
That would put the Wildcats at 8-3 heading into their annual rivalry game with Arizona State. ASU will likely be atop or tied for the Pac-12 South head entering this one, so both teams would have a lot on the line.
If Arizona wins, to go to 9-3 overall and 6-3 in league play, it will likely finish tied for second in the Pac-12 South (unless the South has no teams with fewer than three conference defeats, then tiebreakers would come into play) and get an opportunity to play in a higher-end bowl, such as the Alamo or Holiday Bowl.
The absolute worst scenario would be losing out, starting with an inexplicable loss Saturday at California and including a home defeat to an improved, yet still-struggling, Washington State team. If that happens, the Wildcats finish 5-7 and miss out on a bowl, effectively erasing any momentum that came from Rich Rodriguez's first season in Tucson.
Much more likely, on the low end, is that Arizona beats the two bad teams left but falls at home to UCLA and Oregon, then ends the season with a loss at Arizona State to finish at 7-5. If that happens, it could mean another trip to Albuquerque for the New Mexico Bowl or possibly a spot in the Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco.
Arizona could also find itself without a bowl to go to if the Pac-12 doesn't get two teams into the BCS, as is projected right now. If that happens, only seven schools would be guaranteed bowl bids, meaning Arizona could be in search of a bowl that didn't have one of its designated leagues come through with a qualifying team. Such a scenario could send the Wildcats to the Beef 'O' Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl in Florida or the New Era Pinstripe Bowl in New York City.