Looks like the University of Arizona football team will be home for the holidays. Yes, they did get a bowl invite, but not one of those upper-tier bowls that play between Christmas and New Years Day. They will be playing in one of the early games.
The Wilcats will meet up with the New Mexico Lobos on Dec. 19 in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl. When you have two teams that have a combined 11 losses, that bowl isn’t going to be one of those appearing in the prime-time slots around New Year’s Day.
Ironically, Pac-12 rival Arizona State matches Arizona’s 6-6 record and they play West Virginia, which mirrors New Mexico’s 7-5 – but they got on the holiday circuit. The Sun Devils will get an extra couple of weeks to prepare for their appearance in the Jan. 2 Motel 6 Cactus Bowl.
The New Mexico Bowl will be played on the Lobos’ home field, while Chase Field in downtown Phoenix will host the Cactus Bowl.
Both Arizona teams are appearing in their respective bowls for the second time. UofA head coach Rich Rodriguez led the Wildcats to a 49-48 win over Nevada in the 2012 New Mexico Bowl, his first season in charge of the Wildcat program. The Sun Devils’ only other appearance in the Cactus Bowl came in 2005 when Dirk Koetter was running the program.
This is also the fourth straight bowl appearance for both Rodriguez and ASU coach Todd Graham, who have each earned a bowl bid in every year since being hired, Rodriguez in November of 2011 and Graham three weeks later.
Graham was quick to show his appreciation for an opportunity to stay home for this game: “This is a great opportunity for this team, especially these seniors, to finish out the season in our Valley in front of Sun Devil Nation. West Virginia is a tough opponent and I look forward to an entertaining match-up in a unique environment at Chase Field.”
Rodriguez tried to put a positive spin on just the opposite circumstances, where they will be playing in front of a crowd loaded with Lobo fans: “We are looking forward to returning to the Gildan New Mexico Bowl where we have great memories from a few years ago. It’s especially important to our seniors…I know we’re ready to get to work and start preparing for a tough opponent in New Mexico.”
Both veteran coaches followed the standard formula…offer a good word about the bowl – check; mention your seniors – check; and remind everybody that you are going to have a tough opponent (in case you lose) – and check.
Graham and Rodriguez have identical bowl records, 2-1, during the last three years at the Arizona schools. Graham beat Navy in the 2012 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl and Duke in last year’s Sun Bowl. The Devils lost to Texas Tech in the 2013 Holiday Bowl.
In addition to the win over Nevada in 2012, Arizona beat Boston College in the 2013 AdvoCareV100 Bowl and lost to Boise State in last years’s VIZIO Fiesta Bowl.
Arizona should be getting the hang of playing bowl teams from the Mountain West Conference; the Lobos are the third in four games. This is a big deal for the Lobos since they haven’t been to a bowl game in eight years. Arizona State’s opponent, West Virginia, played in last year’s Liberty Bowl, where they lost to Texas A&M.