If Arizona wants to know what a winning season feels like in 2007, then the Wildcats must find a way to overcome the demons that have plagued them since John Mackovic was strolling the sidelines in navy blue suits and red neckties. First, Arizona has lost five straight road openers (Wisconsin, Purdue, UCLA, Utah and LSU). This season they open at BYU (11-2 record in 2006), a team that won 11 of their last 12 games after losing their road opener to Arizona in Tucson last year on a last second 48-yard field goal. Second, UA has lost six straight Pac-10 road openers. In 2007 their first conference road game is at California, a team that is ranked #12 in USA Today's official first poll of the season that was released, well, today. Third, Arizona has lost six straight home Pac-10 openers. Seriously, I'm not making this stuff up. This year, the Wildcats draw Washington State on Sep. 29, a game many think Arizona can indeed win. Fourth, Arizona is 1-6 in their last seven back-to-back road games. This season, this occurs on Oct. 6 and Oct. 13 when the Wildcats travel to Oregon State and USC, respectively. Fifth, Arizona has lost five of their last six against UCLA and four of their last five to Arizona State.
I've been thinking about these negative trends all week and quite frankly, none really seemed like that big of a deal as I analyzed each one, individually. However, now that I look back on the above paragraph where the trends are all stacked together I have to be honest in that I just threw up in my mouth a little bit. The good news, I guess, is that the lone win against UCLA came two years ago in the 52-14 Homecoming Weekend beat down of the then #7 ranked and undefeated Bruins. Like that season, this year's contest against UCLA is UA's Homecoming game. Also, the lone victory against the Sun Devils did come in Stoops' inaugural season. Add to that the fact that we were leading ASU 17-5 in 2005 before Willie Tuitama was knocked out of the game and suddenly UA's 1-4 record against Tempe Penitentiary isn't so bad (who am I kidding here – it's horrible). Also, look at our road openers over the past five years and you'll soon realize that all of those opponents were ranked except for UCLA. The most important thing to factor in though is that we are one more year removed from Mackovic. We still have some players on the roster that he recruited but those who survived are literally Darwin-esque in that they truly are "survivors of the fittest."
While on the subject of Arizona football, here are a few more thoughts. Am I the only one who thinks this season feels a lot like 1981 when the then top-ranked USC Trojans, led by legends like Charles White, were upset by an experienced, well-coached (Larry Smith) Arizona squad who was desperately hungry to finally turn around their football program? That game, much like this years, was played in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. More so, it was a defensive slugfest (final score 13-10) much like it would have to be this year for Arizona to even think about having a chance to win.
Also, there's one game on our schedule that absolutely no one is talking about. New Mexico. The Lobos are 15-6 in their last 21 conference road games and are 7-4 overall on the road in the last two years. The Lobos' head coach is Rocky Long who served as a Defensive Coordinator at both Oregon State and UCLA so he's no stranger to the Pac-10. The Lobos also return 10 players on defense and seven on offense, including their quarterback. Lastly, in the last three years, they've beaten non-conference foes Texas Tech (27-24) and Missouri (45-35). It's not all gloom for Arizona, though. For one, Long wasn't a very good D-coordinator in the Pac-10. Also, New Mexico is 3-12 against BCS teams during Long's tenure.
There's many things that differentiate the Padres from the Dodgers but probably the most respectable is that the Padres aren't afraid to pitch to Barry Bonds – which is probably the reason why Bonds has more home runs against San Diego than any other major league team – while the Boys in Blue are just that, boys, when it comes to challenging hitters. Bonds is 9 for his last 59 and yet the Dodgers still intentionally walk him with one man on in the seventh, trailing 3-1. The Padres were nip and tuck with the Giants on Friday night the entire game yet Greg Maddux goes right after him as if he were pitching to Mario "Mendoza Line" Mendoza. By the way, the Padres won 4-3 and Bonds went 0-4 with a strikeout. By the way Part II, the Giants took two of three in Los Angeles where Bonds was walked five times.
Speaking of walking, Jake Brown is lucky to be walking the earth today let alone walking in general. The skateboarder pulled a Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka as he freefell some 45 feet after his board shot out from under his feet while he was charging the X Games' "Big Air" Ramp during Thursday's competition. His spill, if you could even call it that, was horrific in that it was an impending disaster that was unfolding before your very eyes. Thankfully, Brown appears to have cheated death with just – and I use the word just very lightly – a bruised lung and a possible contusion on his liver.
Before moving on, I'd like to give a quick shout out to two people who've made my and my wife's life so much more tolerable in the past few weeks, Michael Lawrence and Julie Villalobos. Since these two hard-working and highly-motivated individuals have become more actively involved in my new residential community, so many things around the community have changed for the better. Michael reminds me of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Full Metal Jacket. Because of him, the entire crew from the Olson Company has literally been "born again hard," and it's making a difference. As for Julie, she just gets it done. She's like Jason Gardner. Nothing too fancy, nothing too showy but at the end of the game she's got 16 points, eight assists, four rebounds, two steals, took a charge and forced a key turnover late in the game. She's just solid. Thanks to both of you.
Reason number 211 why Tiger Woods is an outstanding human being: El Tigre recently volunteered his yardage book from his 2005 British Open victory at St. Andrews to Annika Sorenstam so she can use the book during her rounds at this week's Women's British Open. So far, so good as Annika (Arizona alum), is just three off the lead at 3-under through the second round. I make mention of Tiger's kind gesture for the simple fact that he did not have to do this. In fact, he wasn't even asked to do this. Most people have a hard enough time getting a friend to give them a ride to the airport let alone hand over a prized-possession (like the yardage book from a major championship win) so they themselves could use it. To me, it just speaks to Tiger's character and is one more reason why his parents should be extremely proud of the man they helped raise.
Michelle Wie missed the cut today and won't be around for the weekend in yet another major. Similar to Phil Mickelson, since her injury it's been all downhill for the youngster. As unfair as the comparison might be, is Wie the next Anna Kournikova? Let's see. She makes a ridiculous amount of money and gets a ton of hype yet she hasn't won anything and is actually regressing. I sincerely hope that her career gets back on the upswing but I have a sneaking suspicion that it won't. That is until Wie or someone close to her is able to convince her father to relinquish some control and finally let masters of the sport help better guide her career.
In a season of statistics, the one that's been lost in Bonds' chase for 755 and A-Rod's chase for 500 was Ichiro Suzuki becoming the third fastest player in MLB history to reach 1,500 hits. Ichiro's milestone moment came Sunday on a harmless single. I remember the first time I ever saw Ichiro play live. It was the same night I spilled a beer all over another fan's leather binoculars case but that's a story for another time. What I remember the most was watching him play long toss in between innings with one of the bat boys. I've seen plenty of pros hurl the ball around the outfield but the one player Ichiro's arm most reminded me of that night was the Hawk's, Andre Dawson.
For anyone who needs that little extra motivation to start a diet, begin exercising, or commit to some great physical challenge like running that half marathon you've been promising to do for the last five years, get to a computer and look up Shaq's Big Challenge. For those who saw the television episodes, you already know what I'm talking about. For those who haven't, all I can say is Google Shaq and bring some tissue to wipe away the tears of joy. That's all I'm going to say.
For you Steelers and Saints fans, your football season kicks off this Sunday when the two teams square off in the Hall of Fame Game. Like all preseason games, watch the first quarter to get an idea of what your team will probably look like come Sep. 9 and then tune back in during the fourth quarter to see all the rookies from your favorite college team as they fight for one of the last roster spots.
From one spot to another, I love all the Geico Caveman commercials and anything from Jack in the Box or Sonic Burger is definitely a must see, but for me the commercial ad that takes the cake right now is the one of Tiger Woods whistling Survivors's "Eye of the Tiger" while he dresses in the locker room. I mean, the guy is just money. Or as ESPN would say, he's "Now."
Bear Down, Everyone! Until next time…