And defensively, it's hard to complain about a unit that has yielded somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 yards per outing. Arizona's speed has been a factor early. It has also done a much better job swarming to the ball, and simply put, tackling.
But there are obviously areas of concern, and they almost cost Arizona a victory Saturday. On offense, the UA has struggled with the run in consecutive contests. Head coach John Mackovic was stubborn against Utah. He gave Clarence Farmer the ball 33 times, but Farmer's only big play occurred as a pass receiver.
It doesn't take a genius to come to the conclusion this could pose a problem. And frankly, it's a surprising problem. The Wildcat offensive line has shown the ability to pass block, so while the schemes are different, it's at least shown it's not an inept unit. Farmer was touted as one of the two best backs in the Pac-10, yet he has simply been unable to deliver. As a result, offensively, Arizona looks a lot like the Dennis Northcutt/Trung Canidate unit that scored touchdowns from long distance, but could do no damage inside the 20. If the UA can't get the running game going, it's going to have a big problem putting points on the board consistently. Without a consistent running game, Arizona will struggle on a regular basis inside the 20, where the passing lanes become a great deal more compressed. Sooner or later, that will be the type of problem that will affect wins and losses. The Wildcat offense looks effective between the 20s. Now it must seal the deal in the red zone.
The turnover bug really hurt Arizona over the weekend. Johnson fumbled after a big hit deep inside Utah territory on a drive that could have upped the Wildcat lead to 14-0. Gainus Scott fumbled deep in Arizona territory and allowed Utah to score on a short drive. Big turnovers destroyed Arizona last season. More miscues like this, against better teams, will do the same in 2002.
That said, there's certainly potential. The UA probably doesn't have to be a lot better to improve on its overall record this season. It was an eyelash from seven wins in 2001, and continued improvement can turn those negative results into W's before it's all said and done.
Obviously, big test this weekend against a very beatable Wisconsin team. It's also an opportunity to dispel some past east coast disasters. Many will watch how well Arizona prepares for this matchup and use it as a comparison with past UA entries that lost at Ohio State and Penn State. For me, different teams, different personnel, different year, different opponent, different environment. Arizona is still at the stage where it has to take care of its own issues before dwelling on comparisons. But North Texas notwithstanding, a win over Wisconsin sets the table for a 4-0 collision with highly-regarded Oregon.
Onto other issues, it hasn't been an easy ride for UA volleyball. The Wildcats have taken some lumps early against outstanding competition.
Somehow, ranking Arizona sixth in the preseason without star setter and floor leader Dana Burkholder in the mix seems ludicrous now. You can have all the great frontline talent in the world, but what's the point if you can't get them the ball in a place where they can succeed? Burkholder was the glue, and without her, the UA is struggling to keep the pieces together.
The departure of Stefani Saragosa hasn't helped either. A senior influence, Saragosa would have been instrumental in bringing along freshman standouts Bre Ladd and Kim Glass, but they will have to take it upon themselves to make the necessary strides. Arizona will be just fine, but the learning curve might take a bit longer than anticipated. Don't make those "Return to the Final Four" reservations just yet. A big test looms this weekend with the start of Pac-10 play when UCLA and USC visit McKale Center.
I think I'm living in a time tunnel, but as I rack my memory I'm trying to find a time when the upcoming TV season looked so bad, and so void of original ideas. Maybe everything's been done. Or nobody wants to gamble anymore. As a result, instead of new ideas, we get new locations, and we call them new TV shows.
It's Cop/Medicine/Reality. CSI was so popular, let's move a spinoff to Miami. What's next? CSI: Marana?
The medical shows are worse. Hey, Houston has an ER. Let's stick a show there. How about Billings? Oh, the human drama.
But Survivor takes the cake. Now located in Tahiti, or Taiwan, or Thailand, or some T-place. Maybe it's the Triple T Truckstop. I forget. If you really want to put people on edge, I propose:
Survivor: Schu's Apartment.
Announcer: "Who knows what Jasmine will find on the floor?"
Jasmine: "Ooh, it hasn't been vacuumed in, like, six years. I'm going to take off my tank top now, just in time for November sweeps."
Hey wait, maybe this new TV thing could work.