Byrne focusing on three bowl destinations for Arizona
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The Arizona Wildcats are enjoying their bye week while most of the rest of college football finishes the regular season this holiday weekend.
The big question now for the resting-and-rehabbing Cats is: Where will they go bowling?
At 6-6, and with 80 slots available, they are almost certain to find a postseason home somewhere. It's not hard to find bowl projections online. We surveyed 10 from various major media sites and came up with six projected destinations for Arizona:
--The new Arizona Bowl in Tucson
--The Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas
--The Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego
--The Pinstripe Bowl in The Bronx, N.Y., at Yankee Stadium
--The New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque
--The Cactus Bowl in Phoenix
One thing is a near certainty: Arizona will fall to a bowl outside of the Pac-12's seven contracted postseason games. The league has nine eligible teams -- 10 if Washington beats visiting Washington State in the Apple Cup this Friday to get to six victories.
The Wildcats don't figure to be attractive enough to be among the top seven teams selected for a Pac-12 bowl.
When it comes to Arizona's landing spot, one guy who might have a better idea than the amateur bowl match-makers is UA athletic director Greg Byrne. The vast majority of bowl selections will come out Dec. 6 after the College Football Playoff is set, but there's a chance Arizona can first reach an agreement with a game that has an at-large spot available.
"One of the things I'm trying to push is can we get an agreement done sooner rather than later," Byrne said Tuesday on his weekly appearance on 1290-AM (KCUB).
Byrne mentioned three bowls:
--The Heart of Dallas Bowl (Dec. 26)
--The Armed Forces Bowl (Dec. 29)
--The Texas Bowl (Dec. 29, in Houston)
Note that only one of those has been mentioned in prominent bowl projections.
"I think all three are possibilities," Byrne said. "I think there's an outside chance for Shreveport again and Memphis as a real long-shot."
Arizona played in Shreveport, La., in the 2013 season, beating Boston College 42-19 in what was then known as the AdvoCare V100 Bowl. It's now back to being called the Independence Bowl. The Memphis game Byrne referenced is the Liberty Bowl.
"I think there's maybe a real long-shot of staying here in Tucson, but I don't think that's going to be a possibility unless something dramatically changes," Byrne said.
The Arizona Bowl has contracts to take teams from Conference USA and the Mountain West, with a secondary affiliation with the Sun Belt Conference.
With no Pac-12 program likely to make the four-team College Football Playoff -- Stanford has a sliver of a shot -- here are the league's eligible teams: Stanford, Oregon, USC, UCLA, Washington State, Utah, Arizona State, Cal and Arizona.
The three bowls Byrne referenced are all still a month away, which, in theory, could be enough time to get All-American linebacker Scooby Wright healthy. Wright has been out since the UCLA game on Sept. 26 because of a foot injury. In fact, the time off could mean the Wildcats, who played 12 consecutive weeks, could be as healthy as they've been since the opening week.
Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said on the Pac-12 coaches teleconference Tuesday that he wasn't concerned if the bowl date happened late in the postseason or early.
"I'm not really worried about it," he said.
"It's whatever works out best for our team, for our fans. Right now, we're not in a position where we can dictate anything. So, we'll just be fortunate to get a bowl bid and whatever it is, make the most of it."
The Wildcats got their sixth victory by upsetting then-10th-ranked Utah in double overtime on Nov. 14.
Senior safety Will Parks was asked after Saturday's 52-37 loss at Arizona State how much he wants to play in a bowl game.
"Two hundred and fifty thousand percent," he said.
He and Wildcats just have to wait to find out where.