SEATTLE - In less than a month, the Arizona Wildcats' coaching staff will scatter in search of other jobs and a new staff - with fresh schemes, ideas and attitudes - will take its place. Arizona's seniors will leave the program for good, unhappy underclassmen will transfer and a new recruiting class will be brought in.
Chaos will reign, but it'll be progress. For now, however, the UA remains stuck in football purgatory - unable to move forward but terrified of moving backward.
Washington eliminated any hope for a winning season with a 42-31 win over the Wildcats on Saturday; barring a perfect finish, Arizona will fall short of making its fourth straight bowl game.
There isn't much to play for, but plenty of work remains. The UA (2-6 overall, 1-5 Pac-12) must somehow summon the motivation to finish strong in the final month of the regular season.
"If you love this game enough, you'll grind," quarterback Nick Foles said. "It hurts a lot because you put your heart and soul in this game.
"It's been a tough year. We still have several games to play. I'm looking forward to finishing my college career at Arizona. Cherish every moment, win or lose."
With their season all but lost, the Wildcats now have three choices:
• Roll over. And, really, who would blame them? Arizona's season was essentially spoiled Oct. 10, when Mike Stoops was fired in his eighth season as head coach. Interim coach Tim Kish has taken an us-against-the-world approach, but even that attitude can last for only so long.
After all, what's the point in playing hard for a coaching staff that likely won't be here in a month? What's the point of pride when player development, one of the keys to any program, has been put on hold?
Freshman linebacker/safety Tra'Mayne Bondurant admitted the final month's grind "is going to be hard."
"We know that. We know the road we have to go through and the task we have to get through. It's tough for all of us," he said. "We're having fun and we're enjoying it and whatever happens, happens."
• Play the spoiler. With a winning mark out of the question, the UA will now focus on the next-best thing: Wrecking it for somebody else. Arizona will host Utah this week, then finish its season against Colorado, Arizona State and Louisiana-Lafayette, teams that have posted a combined 18-16 record so far this season.
Beating Utah or Colorado - or, heck, both - would not only dig the Wildcats out of the Pac-12 South cellar but deliver a rude welcome to the conference's two newest teams. The Utes, in particular, entered the season with their sights set on winning the division; instead, they're 4-4 overall and 1-4 in conference play.
Arizona's biggest chance to play spoiler will come Nov. 19 against Arizona State, though - by then - the Sun Devils could have already secured a place in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
"As far as we're concerned, we have a chance to be involved in this South championship," Kish said. "All these games remain to be played. We're growing as a team here; we just have to build on the positive things."
Regardless, playing to ruin somebody else's season is a harsh reality. Wide receiver Gino Crump's eyes watered Saturday when he was asked to describe where a once-promising season went wrong.
"We're all competitors in that locker room. We're a tough group, and we came into this season with high expectations," Crump said. "I'm still kind of at a loss for words. It's still tough for me to handle, thinking about the season and what transpired."
• Run the table. OK, so a perfect finish to the 2011 season is about as likely as snow in summertime. But the schedule sets up favorably, and two of their final four games come at home. Plus, ASU could rest its starters if it enters the annual Territorial Cup game with the Pac-12 South already secured.
Senior linebacker Paul Vassallo said the final month marks an opportunity to finish strong. A favorable schedule helps.
"It gives us a fighting chance," Vassallo said. "That's all you need."
Arizona's remaining schedule
• Saturday vs. Utah (4-4, 1-4)
• Nov. 12 at Colorado (1-8, 0-5)
• Nov. 19 at Arizona State (6-2, 4-1)
• Nov. 26 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (7-2, 5-1)