Rich Rodriguez can’t help himself.
A couple of times over the next few weeks, the UA coach will get on his computer and check out where the experts think his team is going bowling.
His wife, Rita, is even more interested.
“I’ll look at it, but I think my wife does it more than I do,” Rodriguez said smiling. “She’ll check it out pretty good because hopefully we’re going somewhere for the holidays.”
New Year’s Eve in Louisiana? Christmas in Detroit? New Year’s Day in Dallas?
Where will the Rodriguez and Wildcat families spend the holidays? We’ll know soon enough.
The UA, at 6-4, is bowl eligible with games remaining against powerhouse Oregon and rival Arizona State. These days, however, six wins doesn’t guarantee an extra game.
The Pac-12 has affiliations with seven bowls, but could have as many as 10 teams eligible. If that happens, Arizona would likely be shipped to a bowl unaffiliated with the conference; that would only happen if other conferences can’t fill their quota.
Winning at least one of its remaining games could help Arizona’s chances of landing in the Las Vegas, Fight Hunger, Sun or New Mexico bowls.
“I don’t care where we go, as long as I get another game and have another week or month of practice with my teammates,” quarterback B.J. Denker said. “That’s all that matters to me.”
Denker’s reasoning is Rodriguez’s biggest motivation for wanting to play in a bowl game. While the extra practices are good for the development of his program and help the younger players, the extra game matters to the seniors.
“It’s a bummer when the seniors finish the last game and most of the rest of the country is playing over the holidays, and they’re sitting and watching,” Rodriguez said. “That’s not a whole lot of fun for them.”
Answers could be coming soon. Mike Parrish, Rodriguez’s director of football operations, and Suzy Mason, the assistant athletics director for event operations, attended the Pac-12’s bowl affiliates meeting in Los Angeles on Wednesday. They’ll report back to Rodriguez today.
In the meantime, it’s never too early to speculate where the Wildcats may be spending the holidays. At this point, we think it’s unlikely Arizona gets sent to a Pac-12 affiliated bowl.
So here’s our look at three spots where we think the UA could end up:
AdvoCare V100 Bowl
When: Dec. 31
Where: Shreveport, La.
Combined bowl payout: $2.3 million
Conference affiliations: SEC and ACC
Why the Wildcats: The SEC will likely send two teams to BCS bowl games, meaning it won’t be able to fill out the rest of its slots. The AdvoCare V100 Bowl — formerly the Independence Bowl — will need to go outside the conference to fill the spot.
Projected opponent: Georgia Tech, Maryland or North Carolina
Fun fact: Independence Stadium, the site of the game, was opened in 1925 and was originally called State Fair Stadium.
Most famous past MVP: Eli Manning (Ole Miss), 2002.
Heart of Dallas Bowl
When: Jan. 1, 2014
Combined bowl payout: $2.2 million
Conference affiliations: Big Ten and Conference USA
Why the Wildcats: Like the SEC, the Big Ten will likely send two teams to BCS bowls and won’t be able to fill out the rest of its affiliations. Of all the auxiliary bowls, this one might be the best for UA fans. Dallas is (relatively) close to Tucson, and the game is played at the Cotton Bowl, which would be neat for any college football fan to see.
Projected opponent: Rice or North Texas
Fun fact: Originally called the Ticket City Bowl, the game is a baby in the bowl world. The first game was played in 2011 between Texas Tech and Northwestern.
Most famous past MVP: Case Keenum (Houston), 2012. Keenum is now the starting quarterback of the Houston Texans.
Little Caesars Bowl
When: Dec. 26
Combined bowl payout: $1.5 million
Conference affiliations: MAC and Big Ten.
Why the Wildcats: We’re back to the Big Ten here. The league will probably send Ohio State and Wisconsin to BCS bowls. That leaves just Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska and Minnesota as likely bowl teams. The Little Caesars Bowl will have to dip into another conference, and if the AdvoCare V100 Bowl and the Heart of Dallas Bowl choose to use a team outside of the Pac-12, that could leave the Little Caesars Bowl as the best option for an overflow Pac-12 team.
Projected opponent: Ball State or Northern Illinois
Fun fact: The game is played at Ford Field, home of the NFL’s Detroit Lions. It was originally played at the Pontiac Silverdome.
Most famous past MVP: Byron Leftwich (Marshall), 2000.