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November 23, 2013
Arizona, No. 5 Oregon at opposite ends of bowl spectrum
The bowl-eligible Wildcats (6-4, 3-4 Pac-12 Conference) are one of eight teams with at least the minimum six wins needed for postseason play and a ninth could become eligible by season's end. But there are just seven bowl games with automatic league tie-ins, so a crucial seventh win with two games to play would help solidify UA's fate.
But the road will not be easy with a pair of top-25 teams remaining on the schedule, starting with Saturday's contest against a fifth-ranked Oregon (9-1, 6-1 Pac-12) team thinking Rose Bowl. Kickoff at Arizona Stadium is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. MT.
UA quarterback B.J. Denker, one of 18 seniors on the roster, said the postseason implications and the opportunity to upset one of the top teams in the country are the ingredients that could make his final home game that much more special.
"We want to come and shock the world against Oregon," said Denker, who will look to help the Wildcats snap a two-game skid in the process. "Let's get some respect back."
And respect is something Rodriguez also wants his players to regain after ending up on the wrong side of a 24-17 upset last week at home against Washington State.
"This is a top-five team, a team that's got national respect," Rodriguez said. "As a player, I think every player wants to have respect. They want to feel like, 'Hey, I belong. I can play with anyone in the country.' If they don't think that way, then they've got the wrong mindset.
"And this is the type of game you can prove it. … Until you do it, it's just talk, right? Well, this weekend you don't have to talk about it. You can show it."
The game could also be the final home contest in the decorated career of junior running back Ka'Deem Carey, who has a few personal goals of his own within reach.
Carey, the second-leading rusher in the nation, is 118 yards shy of passing Trung Canidate's 3,824 yards for the program's all-time rushing record. He also needs four touchdowns to overtake Art Luppino's school record of 48 career touchdowns.
The Tucson native already has a share or sole possession of 16 school records.
"That would mean a lot," said Carey, who could opt to forego his senior season and enter next spring's NFL draft. "This game means a lot. Playing Oregon, home, a chance to break the record, a chance to break another record.
"Lights, camera, action - let's go. I'm excited."
Oregon also has its own postseason fate at stake, as wins in its final two games would put the program in the Pac-12 championship game with a shot at the Rose Bowl.
A loss two weeks ago at Stanford likely derailed hopes of playing for a BCS national championship, so the Ducks do not want to see another opportunity slip away.
"Coach (Mark) Helfrich came out and told us, 'Control it, and make sure you don't get too excited and overlook anything,'" quarterback Marcus Mariota said.
With a forecast of rain, the Ducks, although build on speed, may be that much tougher to contain.
A left MCL sprain has limited Mariota in the running game as of late. But the redshirt sophomore has thrown 285 passes without an interception this season, collecting 2,819 yards on 64.2 percent passing and 25 touchdowns along the way.
Regardless, UA linebacker Jake Fischer said the defense is preparing for a healthy dual-threat Heisman Trophy candidate.
"If we send some pressure," Fischer said, "as long as we contain [Mariota] we won't have to worry as much about him escaping. But he's just as dangerous as any other quarterback throwing the ball in the country, if not more dangerous.'