Eighth in a series looking at potential dream and nightmare scenarios for all Pac-12 teams.
Understand: These are not predictions. They are extreme scenarios and pieces of fiction. You can read last season's versions here.
We're going in reverse order of my post-spring power rankings (which might not be identical to my preseason power rankings).
Up next: Arizona
It was an epic hit, one that won't be soon forgotten in Tucson. Or by Oklahoma State's receiver Justin Blackmon.
The Cowboys took the opening kickoff and immediately drove to the Arizona 33. Quarterback Brandon Weeden was 4-for-4 on the drive, with three passes going to his All-American receiver. On second and 2, Weeden found Blackmon racing across the middle.
Blackmon not only was decleated by Wildcats 220-pound safety Marquis Flowers, but his helmet flew 15 yards and then rolled to the feet of Oklahoma State coach coach Mike Gundy. Gundy had excused Blackmon's showboating in the Cowboys 36-10 win over Arizona in the Alamo Bowl by saying Blackmon "was having a little fun, and proving his ankle was back to normal."
Gundy doesn't immediately see the helmet because he's watching Trevin Wade sprint 81 yards the other way for a Wildcats touchdown. As Wade arrives in the endzone, Arizona safety Robert Golden hands the helmet to Gundy, "Hey, on the plus-side, his ankle looks great!"
Nick Foles passes for 425 yards and three touchdowns in a 45-28 win, the debut of the "Air-Zona" attack. Six different receivers catch at least five passes, with Juron Criner leading the way with nine receptions for 120 yards.
The best news: Five new starters on the offensive line playing their first road game yield just one sack. And in the fourth quarter, they prove capable run blockers as Keola Antolin finishes with 98 yards on the ground.
"It was a clean hit; it gave me goose bumps," Arizona coach Mike Stoops says. "Hey, are those Ferragamo loafers? Those are sharp!"
The Wildcats lose in overtime to Stanford, but come back to shock No. 1 Oregon 38-37 on a 55-yard field goal from Alex Zendejas with 10 seconds remaining.
"We can't have a classic letdown game at USC," Foles says.
The Wildcats have a classic letdown game at USC, losing 33-28, as the Trojans sack Foles three times.
"I'm never happy with losing, but I thought we played with good effort," says a philosophical Stoops. "We're 3-2 having played four teams ranked in the top 15. We played our tails off in both losses and played competitive games. I like this team. It's got fight. We've emerged from a brutal stretch and I can't help but believe we're a good team."
The Wildcats make a statement the next weekend at Oregon State, ripping the Beavers 45-21. They rise to No. 17 in both polls.
"Fair to say Arizona is the best 4-2 team team in the nation?" asks ESPN's Chris Fowler. "They've beaten two top-10 teams and lost to No. 1 Stanford and No. 12 USC by a combined five points."
"Their schedule ahead softens up substantially," replies Kirk Herbstreit. "We'll get the measure of the Wildcats over the next few weeks. Only a handful of teams could have done better than 4-2 with that early schedule."
The Wildcats rock UCLA 41-28. Air-Zona overcomes the elements in a 33-28 win at Washington. In a critical showdown with Utah, the Wildcats score 30 in the second half to win 48-35. That puts the 10th-ranked Wildcats in the South Division driver's seat. If they win-out, they win the division.
But they fall at Colorado, a shocking result considering the Buffaloes' struggling secondary. Foles is picked off twice and sacked four times.
"Give credit to Colorado; they took it to us," Stoops says. "I'm not going use the 'looking ahead' excuse. But I believe in these guys. We've still got a lot to play for."
Before the Wildcats take the field at Arizona State, they learn that Washington State has upset Utah. The winner in Tempe wins the South and goes to the Pac-12 championship game.
The Wildcats gather.
Stoops begins: "We've been through a lot together this season, men. Not everything has gone our way, but we've taken the measure of ourselves and what I know is that you guys have fought all the way and that is all I can ask. Tonight, all you can ask of yourself it to fully invest all your abilities in a 100 percent effort every play. That's your mind, that's your body, and that's your emotions, your want-to. We don't like these guys. They don't like us. The stakes are big. No need to hide from that. I like that. That's why we work so hard. Look around this room, though. That's what all of this is about, this season, this game, all the work we've put in. The guys in this room. Let's go out there and sell out for each other. Make them feel us. Guys ... there are going to a lot of tears in Tempe tonight."
Late in the fourth quarter, with the score tied at 21-21 and the Wildcats on their 33, Keola Antolin takes a handoff and sees no room on the right side. He reverses course, yields five yards in the Wildcats backfield and tries to sprint to the left sideline, hoping that he can out-run the over-pursuit. Sun Devils linebacker Vontaze Burfict recovers quickly and takes a beeline for him.
That is until Foles comes from nowhere to flatten Burfict.
Antolin goes the distance. The Wildcats win the Territorial Cup back. And they win the South. They then blast Lousiana-Lafayette in the season finale while resting their starters.
In the Pac-12 title game, the Wildcats shock No. 1 Stanford and earn the program's first-ever trip to the Rose Bowl, where they beat No. 8 Nebraska, 33-28.
The Wildcats finish 11-3 and ranked sixth.
"How am I going to celebrate?" Stoops says to a reporter. "I've got this Chteau Latour I've been saving -- premier grand cru classé -- that I'm going to open tonight. Then I'm going to tour wine country and grab a bite to eat at the French Laundry. After that, maybe some shopping at Barney's. Oh! And I'll catch up on all the great things on the Pac-12 blog!"
Andrus Peat, Davonte Neal, D.J. Foster and Reggie Daniels commit to Arizona. That convinces quarterback Connor Brewer to decommit from Texas and sign with the Wildcats, whose recruiting class ranks 12th in the country.
Looked at rationally, the 1-4 start shouldn't have been that much of a surprise: Oklahoma State, Stanford, Oregon and USC were nationally-ranked teams. The Wildcats had questions, most particularly a completely rebuilt offensive line that gets exposed during the rugged early slate.
But losing 28-24 at Oregon State quickly put the season on the brink.
"We've got to stick together," says Foles, who'd already been sacked 21 times. "We've still got a lot to play for."
After a bye week, the Wildcats out slug UCLA in a 41-35 win, but they fall at Washington and lose at home in overtime to Utah. Stoops throws a fit during the second overtime and is assessed a critical unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that sets up the Utes winning touchdown.
A column in the Arizona Daily Star questions whether Stoops, despite "making the program respectable again," had plateaued and the Wildcats were headed back to the dregs.
Foles throws three touchdown passes as the Wildcats win at Colorado. Up next: Arizona State.
"We've got plenty of motivation," Stoops said. "They're our rivals and if we beat them they probably don't win the South Division."
But it's all Sun Devils, as Burfict terrorizes Foles, and Brock Osweiler throws four touchdown passes in a 40-24 victory.
Arizona State then upsets No. 1 Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game and beats Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. The Sun Devils finish 12-2 and ranked fourth.
Burfict announces he's returning for his senior season, "to complete the growing up process and get my degree. And to terrorize the Wildcats another season."
The Wildcats are sloppy but manage to slip Louisiana-Lafayette in a near-empty Arizona Stadium to finish 4-8.
Stoops is hired by the Houston Texans.
"I put a lot of thought into this; I did a lot of research," says athletic director Greg Byrne. "And what I concluded is that John Mackovic didn't get a fair shot here before and is the right man to lead the Wildcats to our first Rose Bowl."