Rivalry Week!

The only thing better than rivalry week is a rivalry week with something at stake. 2000 was the last time the Wildcats and Sun Devils both went into the game with a bowl game on the line. After a few years of the ASU game being the only reward to the season, this time the Cats have more to play for.

For Arizona Rivalry Week unofficially began about the time Chris Henry rumbled 62 yards up the middle for the score. Although the Cats still had a quarter and a half to play, they had the Oregon game wrapped up and at least a small amount of their attention was on the Devils.

ASU played the UCLA game as if they were already looking forward to the game in Tucson. The sometimes potent Sun Devil offense was held to four field goals and lost a chance to clinch their bowl birth in their 24-12 loss.

It is Rivalry Week. It is time to talk smack and hope your team can back it up. It is time to break out the Wilbur doll, put a noose on the stuffed Sparky. If you are a Sun Devil fan you are hiding your co-worker's Wildcat mug and putting your maroon and gold flags on your car.

It's a week where married couples do not talk, co-workers can't get along and siblings refuse to return phone calls.

Just think how intense it is for the players? Especially this year where there is more on the line than just pride.

First and foremost both teams are playing for a bowl bid. The winner will have seven wins and is assured of a bowl bid. The loser will finish out of the top-six in the league and has to play the waiting game to find out if the season is extended.

The game is never lacking drama or venom. The players don't like each other, the fans don't like each other and for a few days even families don't like each other.

In many years that is enough. The previous five seasons Arizona has not been playing for anything, while in all but two of those the Sun Devils had a bowl already locked up. For Arizona, it was their bowl game. In the two seasons where both teams were struggling, the teams have split the games.

In 2001 it was a battle of four win teams with first year head coaches. The John Mackovic led Wildcats beat Koetter's first team 34-20 in a game best remembered for a post game brawl.

Two years later the Devils officially ended the Mackovic era with a 28-7 win over an Arizona team that was being coached by Mike Hankwitz.

Now this one has meaning. You have an Arizona team on a three-game win streak, facing a Sun Devil team that has lost two of three down the stretch. The good news for both teams is that they are bowl eligible.

There is also the interesting sub-plot of Koetter's job security. The ASU head coach signed a contract extension in the off-season, but there are rumblings in Tempe that he must win to save his job. Even with a $2.8 million buyout, he could still be on thin ice.

Ironically enough, the last time the teams met with a bowl on the line both coaches wound up being let go. It was 2000 when Dick Tomey and Bruce Snyder coached their last games in the Pac-10 in the 30-17 win.

Rivalry Week has begun. Let the dislike spew forth. Let the animosity out. It shouldn't be hard, there is a lot on the line.

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