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Arizona football: Tough bowl matchup would be best for young Wildcats

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Leave them wanting more

NCAA Football: Washington State at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

To be the best, you gotta beat the best.

This year, the Arizona Wildcats were in a position heading into November that no one could have predicted. They were going into L.A. with a chance to take control of the Pac-12 South.

Of course, standing in their way was the standard-bearers of Pac-12 football over the last two decades, the USC Trojans.

Arizona didn’t beat the best, but they did hold their own and true sophomore Khalil Tate kept on making his case of being the most electrifying player in college football.

The performance, which gave them a record of 6-3, kept them in high-profile bowl projections. In most of those projections, experts have Arizona taking on a program with much more prestige than its own.

This seems to have frightened the Wildcat faithful:

Really? Who cares about the bowl result this year? This was supposed to be a team that won four games — at most — and would be looking for a new coaching staff.

This is a young team, and facing a program like Ohio State, or Penn State, or Michigan, would only be a positive when trying to grow these players for the next few years.

These complaints also fly in the face of the complaints about Arizona’s non-conference schedule in recent years. Plenty of people ask “Where are the Power Five programs?” and now you’re asking for Arizona to get some patsy in a meaningless bowl game so they can beat up on them?

No thanks.

A lot of people refer to the 2009 Holiday Bowl and 2010 Alamo Bowl as reasons why Arizona shouldn’t want to face good teams in a bowl game.

Let’s be real...there are no non-Arizona fans out there that even know who played in those games let alone what the results were. But what games do all fans remember? How about the 2003 Fiesta Bowl? The 2006 Rose Bowl? You know, legendary games featuring big time programs with real stakes on the line.

Those are games I want Arizona to be in, and the first step towards that is taking on a big-time program in something like the Holiday Bowl and letting these players get used to the big stage.

Arizona made costly mistakes late against USC in part because they weren’t ready for the big stage. Tate got aggressive and greedy when he didn’t need to, and getting more experience against a top-tier Big Ten team would only benefit him and the rest of his teammates heading into next year, a year where Arizona could legitimately compete for a Rose Bowl bid.

Again, a game where they’d likely face a top-tier Big Ten team.

So don’t let the names on the front of the uniforms or the coaches on the opposing sidelines scare you away from those potential bowl games. Embrace it. Let this young, talented Arizona team wade into the deep end without the floaties to see if it can hold its head above water, or if it needs a little bit more experience to keep itself alive.