Arizona Looks To Buck Pac-10 Letdown Trend

Congratulations Arizona. Now comes the hard part.

The Wildcats have their highest ranking in more than a decade, a

star quarterback in Nick Foles who should be entering the Heisman

discussion and a real chance to play in their first-ever Rose


They open conference play at home against Cal, which got shot

down by Nevada’s Pistol offense last week, exacerbated by the

return of the ‘bad’ Kevin Riley, throwing three damning


All of that bodes well for Arizona, if not for the fact they

play in the Pac-10, where the conference where any sort of success

is immediately neutralized by the football gods.

Consider USC, which saw its hopes for a BCS title ended by

Oregon State in 2008. The Trojans were coming off a 35-3 pasting of

Ohio State, the Beavers less than three weeks removed from a

35-point thrashing at Penn State.

There’s Oregon, which rose to No. 2 in the nation the year

before, only to see quarterback Dennis Dixon crumble in a heap at

Arizona Stadium and lose its final three regular season games.

And of course, Cal has made a reputation for spectacular


There was 2004, when the Golden Bears were bombed by Texas Tech

in the Holiday Bowl after being edged out of their first trip to

Pasadena on New Year’s Day in decades.

There was 2006, when the Bears flopped at Tennessee after being

touted as dark horse BCS title contenders. When they got themselves

back in the Pac-10 race, Cal lost back-to-back heartbreakers at

Arizona and USC to again come up just short of a trip to the Rose


There was 2007, when the Bears needed only to beat Oregon State

to become the top team in college football. Riley let the clock

expired before a tying field goal try, coach Jeff Tedford memorably

threw his play sheet to the turf and Cal would collapse by losing

five of its final six games.

Stop me if this is getting redundant.

If the ‘Cats have really emerged as an elite team, they

need to go out and win this game by any means necessary.

That’s what the top echelon programs do, especially

considering what Arizona did the last time it was in this


Remember the Holiday Bowl?

“When you think you’ve arrived, that’s when

you are going to get whacked,” Stoops said after the 33-0

annihilation at the hands of Nebraska.

After that experience in San Diego, Foles and company should

know better than to think just showing up will be enough to beat

the angry and embarrassed Bears. Fortunately, this is the best team

Stoops has ever assembled.

Once derided as ‘king of the bubble screen’ for

relying on so many quick throws to inflate his completion

percentage, Foles has evolved into a more complete quarterback. He

is making all the throws now, having completed 78.6 percent of his

passes for 877 yards and five touchdowns. A deep receiving corps

and three talented running backs back him up.

But it’s the defense that is the biggest surprise. League

observers knew returning senior linemen Brooks Reed and Ricky

Elmore would again be beasts, but the rest of the rebuilt unit

frustrated the Hawkeyes at almost every turn.

Add it all up and Arizona is positioned to do something really

special, historic even, if – and it’s a big if –

they can get through this week unscathed.




width="432" />