Arizona Hoping To Make the Final Month Memorable
With three regular season games remaining, the Arizona Wildcats have a chance to make this the most memorable season in school history.
The goal remains simple, win out and secure the school's first trip to the Rose Bowl. After 32 years in the Pac-10, Arizona is the only school from the Pac-10 or Big Ten (11) to have never appeared in the nation's oldest postseason game.
Arizona contending for a Pac-10 title is rare. A win for the Wildcats this weekend sets them up for a run for the Rose. A win by Oregon could set up the winner of the Civil War game between Oregon and Oregon State earning a trip to Pasadena.
The last time Arizona was a serious contender for the Pac-10 title was 1998. The game that decided the Pac-10 title that season was when UCLA invaded Tucson on Oct. 3.
Arizona had a 28-24 lead on the Bruins with three minutes to go in the third quarter. UCLA scored 28 unanswered points in the final 18 minutes and left Tucson with a win and the game that decided the 1998 Pac-10 championship.
UCLA remained undefeated until December. If the Bruins had played in the National Championship Game at the Fiesta Bowl, Arizona would have made its first Rose Bowl appearance.
UCLA lost at Miami in an early December game that was rescheduled from September because of Hurricane threats. When the Bruins lost to the Hurricanes and Edgerrin James' 299 rushing yards, the Wildcats wound up in the Holiday Bowl.
Arizona finished off the most successful season in school history at 12-1. They beat Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl and finished off the season ranked No. 4 in the country.
Arizona entering November with a chance to go to the Rose Bowl is extremely rare. In 1993, the Wildcats entered their Nov. 13 game at California 5-1 in the Pac-10. The Wildcats appeared to be on its way to victory and control of the Pac-10 with a 20-0 second half lead. Arizona went down similarly to Washington this year. A second half interception return for a touchdown sealed a 24-20 victory for the Golden Bears.
Arizona finished in a three-way tie with UCLA and USC. The Bruins won the tiebreakers and headed to the Rose Bowl. A 29-0 victory over Miami was a bittersweet way for the 1993 season to end.
Those 1992 and 1998 teams were realistically the only Arizona teams that had a chance to challenge for a Rose Bowl berth late in the season.
The usual measure of success for an Arizona season is if they beat Arizona State. From 1982 until 1991, the Wildcats finished 8-0-1 against their in-state rivals.
The 1986 regular season concluded with Arizona ending the Sun Devils dream of an undefeated season. Following a victory over North Carolina in the Aloha Bowl, Arizona finished the season 10th in the coaches poll and 11th in the writers poll.
The hope for this weekend should be that Arizona has had a penchant for producing upsets at home under Mike Stoops.
Two years ago, Oregon came to Tucson with the nation's No. 2 ranking and dream of a national championship. Behind two Antoine Cason return touchdowns the Wildcats pulled off the 34-24 shocker.
Ducks fans were left to ponder what if. Ducks QB Dennis Dixon, a strong Heisman Trophy candidate went down with an injury early in the game. The Oregon offense struggled without him and their national championship dreams faded.
After the successful 1998 season, Arizona failed to make another Bowl appearance until last season. It has taken Stoops six seasons to Arizona back in position to become part of the national spotlight again. A win against Oregon will go a long way towards doing that.
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