Each Tuesday during the regular season, local media members have had access to a small selection of Arizona Wildcats players to discuss the upcoming game. This time around, for the visit by rival Arizona State, the player list was all seniors.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, each player was asked what they were thankful for. To a man, receivers Tony Ellison and Shawn Poindexter, left tackle Layth Friekh and safety Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles listed their family and friends as things they were grateful for.
And sweet potato pie, a personal favorite of Flannigan-Fowles.
“Big shout out to whoever created sweet potato pie,” Flannigan-Fowles said.
Each player interviewed was also thankful that Saturday’s Territorial Cup has extra value than just being an opportunity to stick it to their arch rival. It’s also a game that, with a victory, ensures Arizona will play in a bowl game rather than have its once-promising season end far too early.
“Everybody wants to go to a bowl game, that’s for sure,” Poindexter said.
The Wildcats (5-6, 4-4) wouldn’t just become postseason-eligible with a victory, they would also make themselves available to a fair number of bowl games. That’s because the Pac-12 procedure for bowl selection puts the emphasis on league record rather than the overall one.
At 5-4, Arizona would be within one game in the standings of every team but Washington State (and Washington, if the Huskies win Saturday’s Apple Cup). While the Pac-12 champion—or highest-ranked team that doesn’t make the College Football Playoff—would go to the Rose Bowl, the rest of the league’s bowl partners pick teams in a pseudo draft format. They can select any team that’s within one game of the remaining school with the best league record.
That means, technically, that Arizona still has a shot at more prestigious bowls like the Alamo (San Antonio) or Holiday (San Diego). More likely, though, they’d be considered as a prime choice for the Sun (El Paso), Cheez-It (Phoenix) or Las Vegas bowls because of the proximity to those cities.
The Pac-12 only has seven bowl tie-ins and could end up with as many as 10 bowl-eligible teams, so there’s also the possibility of getting farmed out to a game that needs a team. Possibilities for that include the Frisco Bowl outside Dallas and the Liberty Bowl in Memphis.
“Just to be able to play another game is good enough for me,” Ellison said.
Ellison said to him it’s more important to beat Arizona State than play in a bowl, though those things could come hand in hand. For Friekh it would mean getting yet another chance to wrap up a college career that should have ended a year ago.
“Everybody knows how important this is, everyone is fighting to get this,” he said.