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Can Arizona football make a bowl game this season?

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Stan Liu/Arizona Athletics | The Daily Wildcat The Arizona Wildcats defeated the Oregon State Beavers 35-14 on Sep 22. The Wildcats are now 2-2 overall and are 1-0 in the Pac-12 conference.

With only two games remaining in the 2019 football season, Arizona football has to win both in order to make a bowl game. Football beat reporters Jack Cooper, Amit Syal and Austin Wales predict what they think will happen in the final two games against University of Utah and ASU.

Jack Cooper:

Simply put, no, I don’t think Arizona will make a bowl game this year and there isn’t a good chance they’ll win either of their last two games. But for some reason, I think the Wildcats will find a way to get in the victory column one more time. People have been calling me crazy for a couple of weeks now, but I really think that, for some reason, Arizona will beat the University of Utah. These are two teams going in complete opposite directions at the moment, as Arizona is on a five-game losing streak and Utah has won their last six. With that being said, there’s just something about Arizona football playing a top-10 team at home on senior day in late November with a late kickoff time that intrigues me. Just look back at 2015 when No. 10 Utah came to Tucson when Arizona was 5-5 in the middle of November and the Wildcats won a thriller in double-overtime.

If Arizona hopes to have any chance in that game, they’ll need every single bounce to go their way. The game against University of Oregon this past weekend wasn’t as bad of a blowout as people thought, and the Wildcats were in it until the third quarter. If they don’t have any bad mental mistakes and win the turnover battle, I could see that game being much closer than people think. And who knows, maybe they’ll stick around until the end and put themselves in a position to win.

Then, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Arizona will travel to Tempe. I don’t need to remind Wildcat fans what happened last year in the fourth quarter of that game, but with that being said, I think Arizona will come out with something to prove. If ASU loses their next game to Oregon and if Arizona beats Utah somehow, then whoever wins the Territorial Cup would be going to a bowl game. I don’t even have a prediction yet for what could happen in the Duel in the Desert, because anything could happen. This rivalry is one of the most unpredictable in the country and it doesn’t matter how either team is playing coming into the game — anything can happen. Just look at 2016 when Arizona came in with two wins and blew the doors off ASU.

At the end of the day, I think Arizona will finish with five wins. The only thing that would surprise me is if they win both games. 

Final Prediction: 5-7 season record


Amit Syal:

Arizona football (4-6, 2-5 Pac-12) has never looked worse this season and its record and the previous month’s track history goes to show that. The Wildcats are coming off their fifth straight loss after last weekend’s loss to the University of Oregon on the road at Autzen Stadium. The motto after each week’s loss always revolves around the minimum number of wins that Arizona needs to secure in order to move onto a bowl game. However, after each loss, their hopes get slimmer and slimmer. This time, it’s almost impossible to say with certainty that Arizona will play a post-regular season game after this year’s Territorial Cup.

It’s no secret that there are many things wrong with the program. From switching quarterbacks every game for the last month and a half to giving up a ridiculous number of points game after game, Arizona football is the laughing stock of the Pac-12 conference. The Wildcats are currently 4-6 on the season and 2-5 in conference games, ranked dead last in the conference. After winning four of its first five games, the Wildcats looked great. They could have made something of their name this season, but that slowly turned around as they dropped five consecutive games.

Arizona’s next battle is back at home at Arizona Stadium against a very strong program: the University of Utah. The Utes are currently 9-1 on the season with a 6-1 conference record. They are also leading the Pac-12 South and have won their past six games. If the past month and a half has been any indication for this Saturday, it is almost certain that the Wildcats will drop their sixth consecutive game and actually eliminate all hopes for a bowl game. Arizona’s game against Utah is a must-win if they want to play in a bowl game this year. Unfortunately for Arizona, the Wildcats won’t get it done this year and suffer another loss for the last home game of the regular season.

The following week, Arizona takes on the ASU Sun Devils for the Territorial Cup. After most likely coming off a loss against the Utes, the Wildcats will have already eliminated any shot at a bowl game at that point. So, the only motivation for winning their game against the Sun Devils will be bragging rights. ASU is currently 5-5 on the season with a 2-5 conference record, and they are coming off a 34-35 loss to the Oregon State Beavers. Arizona will suffer its seventh consecutive loss on the road in Tempe, Ariz., and close out the season with a 4-8 record. Totally abysmal.

Final Prediction: 4-8 season record


Austin Wales:

After a brilliant 4-1 start to the season, Arizona football has gone downhill quickly, as the team lost its last five games as of late. Arizona (4-6, 2-5 in Pac-12) started off the season well, with their only loss coming to Hawai’i, where they came up only a yard short of tying it up. Then, Arizona beat NAU, Texas Tech, UCLA and the University of Colorado in the next four weeks, which put them at a tie atop the Pac-12 South going into their game against University of Washington. Since then, Arizona has played their worst football we’ve seen in the last few years, allowing 223 points in the last five games. With games against Utah and ASU, Arizona’s bowl game chances are relatively slim, which is not what you would expect after a 4-1 start to the season. 

There are many things to point out that have gone wrong since the 4-1 start, but one thing stands out: Khalil Tate’s play. During the five-game losing streak, Tate has had two games where he has had negative rushing yards, -28 against Washington and -27 against USC, and has also had two games where he’s had less than 100 passing yards, 51 against USC and 50 in this weekend’s loss to Oregon. Tate has not been able to find a footing in offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone’s offense this year simply because he is not made to be a pocket-style quarterback. Yes, there have been points where he has succeeded against average teams such as Colorado and Hawai’i, but when you put Tate up against teams with a solid pass rush and good coverage downfield, he has struggled mightily. And when it comes to decision-making, he hasn’t been the brightest there this year either. 

With two games left in the season, Arizona has to win both games to become bowl eligible. However, the possibility of this happening is quite slim considering who they’re playing this week. Arizona plays No. 7 Utah this week at home, a team who has the possibility of also playing in the College Football Playoff if everything works out for them. The Utes are currently sitting atop the Pac-12 South at 9-1 overall and 6-1 in Pac-12, and if Arizona continues to play the way they have the past five games, their chances of a bowl game this season are going to be eliminated this next weekend after suffering another blowout at home. 

As for the last game of the year against ASU in Tempe, this is where the Wildcats are going to have to leave it all on the field for this season. If Arizona is smart, they’ll start Grant Gunnell for the final two games of the season, as he’s the best quarterback for this offense, and we’ll have a battle between the two true freshmen quarterbacks in Gunnell and ASU quarterback Jayden Daniels. Daniels has been playing well as of late, throwing for over 600 yards and six touchdowns their past two games against Oregon State and UCLA. ASU currently only needs one win to become bowl eligible, and after they play No. 6 Oregon next weekend, they’ll need to beat Arizona to become bowl eligible. However, I think that Arizona has a bitter taste from this and last year’s season that will carry them to victory, ending their season at 5-7. 

Final Prediction: 5-7 season record


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