Random thoughts on this year's football team

The Cats are now down to the stretch run of the season. A bowl game is out, but there are still some interesting games on the schedule. It has been a season with a lot of ups and downs, sadly more downs, but good things can still happen.

Before the season I predicted a 5-6 season, but that included my homer pick of a win over ASU. If the Cats win out that can still happen, but let's be honest, not even the biggest homer thinks the Cats will beat USC, much less win four in a row.

I was actually not too far off. What you say? You picked five wins and a four-win season would be a miracle. That's true, but I wasn't too far off.

Let's look at what I did right. I picked a win over NAU, and losses to Utah, Washington State, Oregon and Cal. I thought the Cats could upend Wisconsin and I was about two feet away from that happening. I was way off with my pick of an Arizona win over UCLA.

As for the remaining games, I picked Oregon State and USC to win, with the Cats getting a win at Seattle and my homer pick of the ASU upset.

Now let's look realistically. Oregon State should beat Arizona, but the Cats have enough to pull the upset and the Cats are about due for some good luck. Is this the week?

Next week the Cats get USC in L.A. and if they win that one it would not only be the biggest upset in school history, but one of the biggest upsets in recent college football memory.

After that it is a trip up to Seattle and a meeting with the dreadful Washington Huskies. This is a game Arizona should win. Both teams have similar records, but the Cats have looked a lot better in their losses than the Huskies have. The Cats have been real close their last three games in Husky Stadium and you get the feeling that the Cats may be due.

Finally you get the ASU game. On paper the Sun Devils should win by three touchdowns, but this game is never predictable. ASU should be no worse than 8-2 and they could be vying for a nice bowl birth. At best Arizona is 3-7 and just trying to finish strong. My head says the Cats lose, my heart says they have a chance.

Moving on. This has been a season full of surprises, both good and bad. We'll take a look at the pleasant surprises first. Offensive lineman Peter Graniello has played very well. He was unheralded coming out of high school and redshirted last year. He has shown great versatility and his upside is huge.

Before the season few would believe that Syndric Steptoe would be the go-to receiver for this team. He hasn't been a game breaker, but he's been pretty solid.

No one was sure what they'd get from Gilbert Harris. He missed most of last year due to a suspension and was arrested early in the season after giving police a fake name. He's been very good on the field. He's been a bruising runner who can get some of the tough yards.

On defense Carlos Williams has been a workhorse. I've never seen a defensive tackle play so many snaps a game.

Antoine Cason has been a marvel. From the fist game he has shown that he will leave here in the same company of Chris McAlister and Darryll Lewis.

Darrell Brooks and Lamon Means have formed one of the better safety tandems in the Pac-10. Brooks has developed into a big hitter and has always been smart and one of the team's true leaders. Means is another player who can levy a punishing blow.

The Stoops brothers have more than lived up to their reputations as great defensive minds. Even without a playmaking linebacker and defensive line depth they have trotted out some great schemes and efforts.

Unpleasant surprises:

Mike Bell is not having a bad season, but he has failed to live up to the hype he had before the season started.

Between injuries and suspensions, Biren Ealy has been a no-show. Likewise, Mike Jefferson has shown little of the improvements that we saw from him in the spring.

Brandon Phillips has hardly played. After sitting out a NCAA mandated three-game suspension, Phillips returned only to get injured again.

Marcus Smith did not make the leap. He's been a solid player, but he did not develop into the big time pass rusher many thought he could become.

Ryan O'Hara and Nic Costa left before they got the chance to prove they deserved a chance to play.

Yaniv Barnett not only jeopardized his scholarship because he liked to get high, but he was stupid enough to get caught smoking pot in public, not once, but twice.

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