Let's play Pac-10 word association.
TUCSON, Ariz. — Let's play Pac-10 word association.
Oregon State, Arizona and Rose Bowl.
Yes, they all belong in the same sentence.
When the 21st-ranked Beavers (7-3, 6-1 Pac-10) come to the desert on Saturday, they'll be hunting their first Rose Bowl berth since Jan. 1, 1965. A victory over the Wildcats and arch rival Oregon on Nov. 29 will seal a trip to Pasadena.
"We want it so bad," Oregon State quarterback Lyle Moevao said. "But we know what we are going to have to do and how we're going to get there."
The Wildcats (6-4, 4-3 Pac-10) have never played in the Rose Bowl game. But they can deny the Beavers and improve their own bowl destination with a victory.
Mike Stoops has defeated six Top 25 teams in his five seasons at Arizona. He's hoping to make Oregon State the seventh.
"We compete against the best teams," said Stoops, who is 23-33 overall. "That really gets our juices flowing. We understand what type of team this is. This would be a great win for this team and our program."
The Beavers only cracked The Associated Press Top 25 on Nov. 9. Far from the national spotlight, the Beavers have won five straight games and methodically put themselves in contention for a slot in one of college football's most glamorous postseason games.
That seemed unimaginable after Oregon State opened the season 2-3, with losses to Stanford, then-No. 19 Penn State and then-No 15 Utah. (If Penn State beats Michigan State on Saturday and the Beavers win out, they'll have a rematch on Jan. 1 in Pasadena.)
But one of the two wins came against then-No. 1 USC on Sept. 25, and that gave Oregon State the tiebreaker if both teams win out.
Unlike the Trojans, who occasionally stumble against lesser opponents, the Beavers have been able to keep their minds on the game at hand.
"It's like I've said before about football, you get one game a week," coach Mike Riley said. "We put in countless hours during that week to get ready for that game. You will never hear us say 'Well, we overlooked it,' or 'We didn't prepare as hard.' That will never happen."
Against Arizona, the Beavers will try to control the football and keep the Wildcats' high-octane offense off the field.
To run the clock, teams have to run the ball effectively. Oregon State's ground game chugs along behind diminutive freshman tailback Jacquizz Rodgers, who averages 123.3 rushing yards per game, best in the Pac-10 and ninth nationally.
"You watch him and he will just glide," Arizona defensive coordinator Mark Stoops said. "That is something you can't coach and you can't teach. You have that God-given ability and (are) able to make the cuts and find creases."
The Wildcats have been susceptible to the run. They conceded 206 rushing yards in an ugly 55-45 loss at Oregon last week and give up 138.4 yards per game, sixth in the Pac-10.
Arizona hopes to put the Beavers in a hole and force them to play catch-up, which isn't their strength.
The Wildcats' main mission will be protecting quarterback Willie Tuitama, the Pac-10's No. 2 passer. Tuitama, a senior, has 18 touchdown passes and seven interceptions. But he's susceptible to pressure, and the Beavers have 28 sacks this season, 13 in the last three games.
Last year, Oregon State sacked Tuitama eight times in a 31-16 victory at Corvallis.
"We know where they are coming from, at least we think," Arizona guard Joe Longacre said. "We just have to make sure we clean up our execution."
The Wildcats have grown accustomed to the spoiler role in recent years, especially in November. Arizona Stadium has become a dreaded destination for Pac-10 schools.
Last November, the Wildcats upset No. 2 Oregon, scuttling the Ducks' national title hopes. Two years ago, Arizona knocked off No. 8 California, and the year before that they beat No. 7 UCLA.
The Beavers know the history. But they also know that they've won on their last three visits to Tucson, and they're a confident bunch.
"I think we are just living in the moment right now and having fun with the games we have ahead of us," Moevao said. "We know it's going to be tough going down to play Arizona but it's going to be fun environment to play in. We are definitely going to remember these last two games of the season for the rest of our lives."