Schu Strings: Is this the bottom?

It's one thing to lose to a better team. It's another to regress in the setback. Arizona appeared to fly through two time zones for the expressed purpose of bolstering Wisconsin's overall appeal.

With just one tune-up remaining before the Pac-10 season gets underway, the Arizona football team went from a squad looking to improve on a week-to-week basis to a team slipping all the way back to square one.

Any way you slice it, the UA played poorly in Saturday's 31-10 loss at Wisconsin. This is far from revelation. The Wildcat players said so themselves. Linebacker Lance Briggs, one of the few bright spots defensively, said his team was outcoached and outplayed, and as a result departed Madison by making Wisconsin appear on track for national title honors. Wisconsin is a good football team. It's better than Arizona--certainly more physical, and more certain of what it wants to do, and absolutely controlled the front line throughout--but instead of battling, the UA looked intimidated and went from a team playing an uphill battle against a stronger opponent to a team making that battle easier by compounding the situation with stupid, fundamental mistakes.

Poor tackling, offensive miscues, a slew of special teams blunders: all a recipe for a long afternoon, or morning if you were watching the debacle on the west coast. For some reason, once Arizona leaves the Mountain or Pacific time zone and travels east, it seems to forget how to play football. Well, there was that 35-31 win at TCU in 1999, but beyond that, it takes quite awhile to scan the media guide for positive results in parts of the country where the sun shines first.

The UA had an opportunity to build from the Wisconsin experience, and could have used it to make great strides as conference play loomed. Instead, it gave every other team in the Pac-10 ammunition. In other words, there's a lot to do before Oregon cruises into town October 5.

That said, in the short John Mackovic tenure, Arizona has played two poor, even embarrassing, games: at Oregon State and at Wisconsin. It was outclassed by better teams in lopsided losses to Oregon and Washington State. However, after a dismal 38-3 perfomance in Corvallis, the UA improved significantly, losing at the wire in consecutive weeks at Washington and home against USC.

Arizona was a much better team after it hit the bottom at Oregon State. It will be interesting to see whether the same can be said about this UA unit after the Wisconsin loss. If not, the prognosticators might have been too kind. With more performances like the one against Wisconsin, Arizona could be looking up at that eighth place preseason finish.

Being the fan of the underdog that I generally am, I have a hard time pulling for college football teams with deep traditions. And when one talks about Notre Dame and USC, it doesn't get much more traditional than that. But I'm pleased to see both coaches doing well. After watching Tyrone Willingham guide Notre Dame to four straight wins, the only question in my mind is how in the world was he the school's fourth choice, a fallback selection for head coach? Willingham has always been a class act, and by virtue of that approach, Notre Dame's return to prominence appears on the fast track. The schedule is such that it's not out of the realm of possibility the Fighting Irish could be in the national title game. The last two games of the regular season, Florida State and USC, could be determining factors.

Speaking of USC, despite the weekend loss at Kansas State, Pete Carroll always looks like he's having the time of his life. He may be the happiest coach in America. Carroll looks like he appreciates every second of his experience at Troy, and it's nice to see, even though it doesn't thrill me to see SC positioning for the top spot in the conference again in the near future.

Just in case you have plans to attend the UA home game this weekend with North Texas State, consider purchasing a gas mask. For Speedway west of the interstate is having problems. On September 7, a heavy rain helped to create the final blow for one of the city's main sewer lines, a corroded system now some four decades old. End result, a really smelly pair of sinkholes on the west side. Be prepared if you're traveling I-10. It's, shall we say, more aromatic than usual. Now I'm not a big expert on the whole sewage system thing, but my friend in Las Vegas is. He works in the trenches, so to speak, so when I mentioned Tucson's current situation, he responded with his inside analysis.

"That sewer line break sounds like a real treasure. Hope you enjoy it. It is not often that the guy has to come face to face with the fact that s(tuff) has to go somewhere, and the street ain't it. Hope it is not near your house. Old collection systems suck. 'Cause when they go south..........there isn't a nice valve ready to turn to send the stuff another direction that will end up getting the stuff to the same destination. Civil engineers also suck. Plant designers suck. I was watching Star Trek TNG last night. It was the one where Jordi has to dig up a hologram of some hot design engineer chick and they end up getting along and he wants to (edited for the Cat Tracks family audience), as do I. They both come together at one point to point out an eternal truth that I have come face to face with in my career.............if you can call what I do a career.........I guess you could...........but I choose not to................this can't be all that there is.........Anyway, the chick points out that the ship tests were done in a controlled environment, which limits her practical abilities, and the "Roots" kid points out that his knowledge is limited to practical knowledge without the knowledge of a designer....................blah blah blah.....................and then he tries to (edited for the Cat Tracks family audience) and eat Italian food. Point being, we still have not learned to put experienced operators together with design engineers when crap is built. If they had, then there would be an alternate sewage line running parallel to the main line on all main collection lines. If there is a break, just turn that proverbial valve mentioned above. I mean, freak...........they already have the damn road torn up for miles and the ditch dug.........why not go ahead a kick in for some more pipe and a few alternate lines...........but then the "Value Engineers" get their damn hands on the plans after everyone else has and they say, 'Do we really need this? We can save some money here'...................then the City Council gets their mitts on the bill and start the political whining........"-Friend in Vegas.

Now the short version.

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