It took some time to get figured out, but eventually Arizona's 7-5 record helped it land in Santa Clara and a matchup against the Big Ten West's third place team Purdue in the Foster Farms Bowl set to take place Dec. 27 at Levi's Stadium.
The Wildcats were once in position to take a hold of the Pac-12 South, but that was before Rich Rodriguez's team dropped three of its last four games including the season finale against in-state rival Arizona State. Khalil Tate left the game with an injured shoulder and the Wildcats unraveled in the third quarter, squandering a two-score lead and eventually losing the game, 42-30.
Arizona's defeat meant a jumble in the middle of the Pac-12 standings with three teams sitting at 7-5 including ASU and Oregon, both teams that beat the Wildcats down the stretch. The Wildcats were slated for the Las Vegas Bowl that eventually went to Oregon when Washington made a New Year's Six game the Fiesta Bowl against Penn State. Arizona State took the spot in the Sun Bowl and the Holiday Bowl, which Arizona had an outside chance of going to, opted for Washington State for a second consecutive year.
That left the Wildcats in a position to play in a California bowl to wrap up the year.
"It's an outstanding bowl and a great opponent from certainly a great league," Rodriguez said about his team's bowl game against Purdue. "I think our guys are excited about it."
Jeff Brohm's name came up in the discussions for the Tennessee head coach opening as the Purdue head man led the Boilermakers to a 6-6 record which was good enough for a third place finish in the division. Purdue ended its year winning three of its last four games with the loss coming against then-No. 25 Northwestern on the road. The Boilermakers have only had one loss by more than 10 points this season and only allowed one opponent, Louisville, to score more than 30 points.
"We're looking forward to this bowl game and we're really excited about playing Purdue," Arizona receiver and Bay Area native Tony Ellison said. "... It's going to be really physical, so we're going to be really physical these next couple weeks getting ready for it."
Arizona and Purdue have only played twice before with the Boilermakers winning both contests. The last meeting came in 2005 with then-No. 12 Purdue beating the Wildcats in Tucson, 31-24.
Rodriguez was 1-2 against Purdue when he was the head coach at Michigan with his lone win coming in 2010, 27-16.