The Cats were supposed to go 2-2 after their first four games, and did just that. They were not as impressive in their wins as fans had hoped, but did beat the two teams they were "supposed" to beat.
The second third was supposed to be the easy third. 2-2 would have kept them in the bowl hunt and 3-1 is what many expected before the season. Of course, no one predicted that Isaiah Stanback would have the kind of impact on Washington that he did. No one expected Oregon State to get on the roll that they did. Arizona had four winnable games, and one just one. They were in all three losses late, but it was clear they just weren't good enough on those days.
That is why the WSU win is a bit of a surprise. WSU was on a roll. WSU had losses to Cal, USC and Auburn and played all but the Tigers tough. The offense was clicking and the defense was putting pressure on the quarterback. Add to that the dreary weather in Pullman and this one looked like another hard fought, but futile game. Instead Arizona executed in all three facets of the game and came away with an upset win.
Now they have to build upon the win.
Technically the Wildcats still have bowl hopes. If they can win two of their final three they would at least be bowl eligible. That is the good news. The bad news is that the combined records of the three remaining foes are 20-7 with ASU accounting for four of those loses. The combine record of the four teams Arizona has already beaten? 15-22.
Even if the Wildcats don't get to the six wins, they can finish strong and build for next year. They can still have a successful end to the season.
The Bears are good. Really good. In fact, they have an outside shot at the national championship game. To make matters worse, they have had the Wildcats' number in the Mike Stoops era. In the past two years the Bears have outscored the Wildcats 64-0 and neither game was close.
Even if Arizona plays a perfect game, they would probably need Cal to make numerous mistakes for there to even be a chance to win. The fact of the matter is this is an elite Cal team. This is a team that has won by 20 or more five times and their closes win was the seven-point overtime win against Washington.
Frankly, if the Cats can hang around for most of the game and lose by 17 points or less this could be a building block game. Sure the Wildcats upset a top-10 UCLA a year ago, but this Cal team is better than that Bruins team. They have more weapons, a better defense and are on a mission.
A win would be gigantic, but realistically, this game still has moral victory qualities.
Arizona has played the Ducks tough the last two seasons. The won by 14 in 2004 in a game that had a few controversial calls and then were lucky to escape last year when they recovered a late fumble for a touchdown.
While the match-up may be favorable, nothing else is. The game is being played in Eugene, a place that is really tough to win. The Ducks are also a very good football team. Their two losses have come on the road and they have beaten the likes of Oklahoma, Washington and UCLA.
This is another game where, at the very least, you want to see some fight in the Cats. The have not won in Autzen Stadium since 1986 and have taken better teams into the venue than this one. Giving the Ducks a serious scare would be nice. A win would be fantastic, but it may just be too much to ask this club.
This is a must win for the Wildcats. Of course, the Sun Devils will be saying the same thing. At this stage of the season, ASU just is not very good. They could turn around those fortunes by the time they come to Tucson, but right now they are a team that got blown out by Oregon State last weekend. They were playing better after blowout losses to Cal and Oregon, playing USC tough and beating Stanford and Washington, but one has to wonder how they will fare against Washington State and UCLA.
With their suspect defense and bizarre struggles on offense, ASU is the most beatable team on the schedule for the Wildcats. Of course, you could say the same thing about Arizona being the most beatable team left on the ASU schedule.
Under Stoops Arizona has outplayed the Sun Devils in six of the eight quarters. They held on to win the game two years ago and faltered late last year when injuries and special teams mistakes propelled the Devils to the last second win.
Plain and simple, five wins would be a successful season at this point. It would fall a game short of the six wins I thought the team had in them, but would look a whole lot better than 4-8. More importantly, the Wildcats need to continue to play well in the final quarter of the season. They need to end on a high note, showing continued improvement and then actually build upon it next year