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Arizona's win over Oregon sets fire to Pac-12's college football playoff hopes

Stanford coach David Shaw worried about this scenario just two weeks back.

Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

If you're an Arizona fan, your cardinal and navy decor and Block A gear might as well be covered in champagne. Rich Rodriguez isn't the recycled, old news head coach that Michigan threw to the CBS broadcast booth. He's still an innovator, and with a win over the No. 2 Oregon Ducks on Thursday has put the Wildcats at 5-0, the first time they've been here since 1998 -- behind a freshman quarterback and running back, no less.

Step outside your happy little box, and what Arizona has done is more than unsettling elsewhere in the Pac-12.

Stanford, Oregon's rival in the north, already has a loss to Arizona's next opponent, USC. The Wildcats and the UCLA Bruins find themselves as the only undefeated teams left, and there's a lot of reason to believe neither will end up that way. Even by the end of next week, there could be zero Pac-12 schools without a loss if Arizona falls to the Trojans and UCLA can't handle some ticked off Ducks.

Two weeks ago, Cardinal coach David Shaw seemed to have saw this coming. He wondered about the realistic chances of no Pac-12 team making the new college football playoff.

"It all hinges, as we all know, on the (college football playoff) committee," Shaw said during his weekly teleconference. "Imagine a two-loss Pac-12 champion that's played a hellacious schedule. Do they get bumped for a one-loss or an undefeated team that did not play the same type of schedule? That, to me, is going to determine where this playoff goes -- and scheduling in the future. If that happens, I can guarantee there are going to be 12 coaches going to the commissioner."

Shaw's comments were even more prophetic. He might have seen what was coming Thursday night, when the Wildcats beat the Ducks 31-24 in Eugene.

"Every game is scary," he said, three days after Arizona beat Cal on a Hail Mary play. "You watch the yardage -- no one had a lot of expectations for Cal, moderate expectations for Arizona because they lost a big-time running back. You turn their games on and you say, 'wow.' They're explosive, they're fast, they're productive, their guys play hard.

"Many have talked about it openly," Shaw said of his fellow Pac-12 coaches. "We've even talked about it privately. We're at the Pac-12 meetings looking around the room, like, 'Man, whoever survives this thing, it's going to be a heck of a deal.' "

There isn't much surviving going on currently. No team outside Colorado and Washington has more than one loss, but that's going to change very soon -- probably randomly and likely in crazy fashion.

But hey, back in your world where only Arizona matters, there's this: realistically, the Wildcats are solidly in the chase for the Pac-12 South.