It’s easy to count to six.
But if the Arizona Wildcats lose to Utah today, it becomes a whole lot harder. In order to become bowl-eligible, the UA has to win six games this season. Lose to the Utes tonight, and getting to that number suddenly becomes a challenge.
“I’m not one to look at the end result and say to the guys, ‘Hey, we have to do this to win a championship,’ but I did say, ‘This is an important one,’ ” UA coach Rich Rodriguez said. “I always concentrate on the next play and the process rather than what the ramifications are of the game. But we need to come out and play our best.”
If Arizona trips up tonight against a Utah team coming off a stunning win over then-No. 5 Stanford last week, it will fall to 0-3 in Pac-12 play. It then just gets tougher as the Wildcats head out for back-to-back road games, before four straight games against teams with winning records.
“There’s a lot of urgency right now,” junior safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant said. “This game is very important. We can’t go 0-3, period. The plans we have for our season, we can’t let it keep going downhill. We have to fix it. Everyone is on the same page right now.
“We know how hard it’s going to be and we’re in a good mood and ready to move forward.”
Added senior guard Chris Putton: “I think we’re excited and hungry. We have to come out with intensity and fire and be able to get after it right away.”
Truth is, the Wildcats are where most people thought they’d be through five games. Rodriguez’s team easily got through its nonconference portion and then lost its first two league games to talented Washington and USC teams.
So tonight begins the swing portion of the schedule. Three games against teams that combined to go 9-27 last year. Go 3-0 and a bowl game is guaranteed. Go 2-1 and a bowl game is a good possibility. Go 1-2 or worse and start prepping for 2014.
Getting a win tonight may boil down to how well the UA contains Utah quarterback Travis Wilson. The sophomore ranks 17th in the country in total offense (320.5 yards per game) and is completing 61.7 percent of his passes. He’s thrown for at least 200 yards in every game this season and has 13 touchdown passes in six games.
Limit him and turn him over a couple of times and a chance at a victory certainly increases.
“This sounds like coachspeak, but if we play well for four quarters and every minute, we can win every game,” Rodriguez said. “But if we don’t play well, we won’t. We’re not good enough to play poorly and win. I’ve been on teams that can play poorly and still be good enough to win. You’re talented enough at certain positions that you can squeak it out.
“Right now, we’re not talented enough or good enough to win when we play poorly and that’s just where we’re at.”