So, the Arizona Wildcats aren’t playing this weekend, getting a much-needed bye after playing 10 weeks in a row. Guess that means there’s no reason to pay much attention to college football on Saturday, right?
Not if you’re a real fan. And even if you’re only interested in Arizona, you should still be keeping an eye on some results, particularly those that could help the Wildcats in their improbable quest to win the Pac-12 South Division.
At 4-3, Arizona is tied for first place with USC and Utah. Those are two of the three teams the Wildcats have lost to, so tying for the top spot isn’t an option.
But that doesn’t mean it’s unfathomable for Arizona to finish alone in first. There is a path to this happening, and here’s how that trail could go:
Step 1: Wins at Washington State, vs. Arizona State
First and foremost, Arizona has to take care of business, and that won’t be easy.
After the bye it goes to Pullman to face Washington State, which leads the North Division and is the only team in the league with fewer than two losses. Yet the Cougars looked quite beatable against California, and right after Arizona comes to town they’ll be hosting rival Washington in the Apple Cup so there’s certainly some potential for looking ahead.
Then comes the Territorial Cup, Nov. 24 at home against Arizona State. ASU is a half-game behind Arizona, at 3-3, and is the only team in the South that controls its own destiny, as if the Wildcats needed further motivation for this game.
Just one loss in the final two games ends any chance of a division title, though a six-way tie at 4-5 is possible (but the Wildcats would lose out on multiple tiebreakers).
Step 2: USC and Utah each lose one more league game
Technically, some of this step can—and may need to—happen before Arizona has a chance to do its part. USC and Utah each have two more Pac-12 games left, with both playing nonconference games on the final weekend.
The games this Saturday with Pac-12 South implications: Cal at USC, Utah at Oregon and UCLA at Arizona State. The first two are the most important for Arizona’s sake since it would need to beat ASU in two weeks to win the division anyway.
USC is favored by 5.5 points over Cal and Utah is a 3.5-point favorite over Oregon. USC won at Oregon State last week but last time it was home it lost to Arizona State, and Cal’s performance at Wazzu shows it is capable of pulling an upset. Same goes for Oregon, which is getting a Utah team that just lost starting quarterback Tyler Huntley to a broken collarbone at ASU.
For Nov. 17, USC is playing at rival UCLA and Utah goes to Colorado while ASU visits Oregon. All three could lose and it wouldn’t be a shock.
Step 3: Believe in miracles
Will all this happen? Probably not. Can it? Yes.
That’s all you need, really. As long as it’s still a possibility, Arizona (and its fans) can legitimately consider themselves a Pac-12 South title contender, just like they did before the season started.
So what if the journey didn’t go exactly as expected.