The year was 1999 and Arizona was ranked #4 in the AP's preseason poll. The ‘Cats lost their opener to Penn State 41-7 that season and have pretty much been losing ever since. In fact, Arizona is just 34-58 in the last eight years. Worse, they're just 6-27 in conference home games over this same time period. Well, the losing ends Saturday. Arizona travels to Provo to play BYU and although things will be anything but easy, it's a winnable game that quite frankly must be won by Tuitama & Co. If this at all looks familiar, it should. Last year, Arizona was Robbins Brothers. This year, I'm predicting Tiffany & Co. What's more, I'm dubbing the Tuitama and Thomas connection "TNT" for Tuitama ‘N Thomas so what do you think about that. Cheesy? Maybe. Has someone already given the duo this nickname? I hope not, but if they have I'll be glad to pass the credit onto them.
You want cheesy? Well, try this one on for size: TNT needs to explode for a great game in Provo. The tandem needs to play well and together, lead the way on offense. I'd like to see Thomas get eight catches, hooking up with Tuitama on everything from crossing patterns and go routes to hitches and swing passes. BYU has a solid secondary with three guys returning but if there is a BYU defensive unit that Arizona can expose it's the Cougars secondary. They're good back there in coverage but their overall speed won't set any track records. With three, four or five guys in the pattern, I expect Arizona to send two wide outs on deep routes nearly every play to try and free Thomas and bigger receivers like Anthony Johnson and Derick Barkum underneath. Unfortunately, this stuff is a lot easier said than done. Arizona finally has the skill players to make a difference. They have receivers who can slip tackles when running with the ball as well as deliver big blocks downfield to spring their teammates. This offense is a much more physical and confident group then in 2006 and although few players are household names just yet, Saturday's contest at BYU will be the first opportunity for Arizona to prove to the nation that this group of Wildcats are a bit more ferocious than Pac-10 foes have grown accustomed to seeing.
How deep is Arizona's defense this season? Well, when Michael Klyce is listed as your third string strong safety let's just say you're pretty deep. Klyce, in extremely limited action last season, had 18 tackles, broke up two passes and had three interceptions against Washington State, Cal, Oregon and ASU.
The Pac-10 is off to a rousing start heading into the weekend's games. Washington blew out Syracuse and Oregon State outlasted Utah, finally pulling away late in the third quarter. For Washington, who needs Isaiah Stanback when you've got Tim Tebow…err…I mean, Jake Locker. Locker accounted for 2 TDs. He was an efficient 14-19 through the air. He also rushed for 83 yards. The stats don't tell the whole story though. He looked comfortable in the pocket and when he decided to tuck the ball and run, he hit the holes like a speeding bullet. It's hard to say how good Washington will be this season because Syracuse is so incredibly bad but it does look like the rebuilding project going on in Seattle is working.
As for Syracuse, I knew they were going to lose the second they came out of the locker room in those fluorescent orange uniforms. Seriously, they looked like the highlighter I use at work. People love to rail on Oregon's awful unis but holy cow, the ‘Cuse's are easily the worst I've ever seen.
I hate the fact that the fate of the entire conference rests on the shoulders of Cal beating Tennessee. Quite frankly, the Cal game killed the conference last season. If Cal loses again, it's all we'll hear about on the west coast for the next five months. Fair or not, it's the truth so please Cal, I'm begging you, do what's right and win one for the rest of us.
Speaking of winning, Team USA is beating opponents like the original Dream Team. One word. Finally. Kobe said earlier this week that playing for Team USA is like playing with a bunch of super heroes. Well, the Fizz asks how can you have a team of super heroes and not include Agent Zero? Nice going Coach K. As my dad would say, "go take a long walk on a short pier."
I've said this before and I'll say it again. If Gilbert Arenas doesn't bolt for the NBA after his sophomore year, Arizona would have another national title hanging from the rafters. That, and, oh yeah, Jason Williams not being whistled for his third foul near the end of the first half when he attempted to steal the ball from Jason Gardner only to miss so badly that he physically rolled over Gardner's back. You know, whatever, it's not like I'm still harboring bitter feeling about the 2001 title game loss to Duke and the refs. I've completely forgotten about that.
While on the subject of forgetting things, my buddy Troy and I were going over Arizona's Final Four runs under Lute Olson and Troy kept coming up with five of them. That sonuvagun kept counting the year we blew the lead to Illinois in the Elite Eight. When we finally figured this out I won't lie, it was a true gut punch moment. Easily the toughest pill I've ever had to swallow, but I digress.
How do you explain to your wife that ESPN is running 25 straight hours of college football coverage leading up to the LSU versus Mississippi State season opener on Thursday? Does it merit a sit down, or is this something I can just put in a text message? I chose to employ the oldest trick in the book. You know the routine where you say something like, "oh wow, look babe. ESPN's running this crazy, like marathon thing about college football. No, I don't know what this is. No, I swear. No, no. It's just…on I guess. Yeah. Look, it says 25 hours right there. Well, no I'm not sure. Let me just figure this out for a second."
Being that I live in the Los Angeles area, there's really no other place to be on Saturday than at USC for tailgating and the game. Don't freak out about this ‘Cats fans. And please spare me any traitor talk. I'm attending the USC game for all of us because if you recall, Arizona was 2-0 last season when I watched UA's games from the Engineering quad on the Trojans' campus (Washington State and Cal). I'll be there again so you can thank me around six o'clock Saturday. And yes, I'll be watching the ‘Cats play thanks to my Honda run silent generator, a flat screen TV, a mobile satellite dish, and enough monster cable to rope tie the entire BYU offensive line.
Remember last week when I discussed my female dog Bella's sound tackling skills and how she's pummeling my Maltese. Well, guess what. Rocky the Maltese has, out of nowhere, developed a pretty sweet spin move. The other day Bella made a B-line for The Rock and just when I thought she was going to put Rocky into the wall, the little guy pulled a Madden '08 Reggie Bush-like spin move on her that sent Bella into the wall instead. I must admit, I was proud of him. If he can just work on his pass protection blocking, I see him as a strong two on the depth chart.
I picked up an iPhone this week. Let me just tell you, iLove It!
I also picked up not one, but two Samsung flat screen LCD displays on Friday night. Did I ever mention how much I love my wife? The timing was just right. With Fox Sports Arizona now broadcasting ‘Cats games in HD, the purchase was inevitable. I tell you what – if my wife continues to sign off on large electronic equipment items she can have all the PriusFontaines she wants.
You know what I also love. College football.
I won't go so far as to say that I can do without the NFL, but if I had to choose between the two I'd choose college football in a heartbeat. For some reason, I'd rather watch LSU pummel MSU 45-0 then watch the Lions beat the Bills 24-21 on a last second field goal. I'd also rather wake up at 7 a.m. to watch College Gameday then wake up at 9 a.m. to watch any NFL preview show.
I think it's time for Mississippi State's Sylvester Croom to go. He's now 9-26 after Thursday night's blowout loss to LSU; a game that was played in Starksville. Plus, what's the deal with him sending his football team home to get rest instead of letting them attend Wednesday's pep rally FOR his football team? Memo to coach: the MSU football pep rally was for the MSU football team. Pep rallies are about the players, the cheerleaders and the band. They're not about head coaches making senatorial campaign speeches, which is kind of how Croom's pep talk came off to those faithful few in attendance. I'm not trying to be cruel. I just don't understand what Croom was thinking when he told his players to skip the pep rally. If he can't make an obvious decision like, yes, our football team will attend the football rally, then how are Bulldogs fans supposed to trust that he'll call the right play in a key third and long situation.
I'm re-watching Washington's drubbing of Syracuse right now and just realized that the one thing I failed to mention earlier about the Huskies is how fast they look as a team. Their overall team speed is amazing. As an Arizona fan, this worries me a tad because Washington is a school that I already so desperately want to draw a "W" next to on the team schedule.
Here's a question: Which team will average more points this year? Louisville's football team or Louisville's basketball team?
Here's another question: If the Stanford Tree fell in a forest, would anyone here it? I only wish I could've thought of something this clever on my own but this question is a famous Pac-10 jab at the Cardinal.
Is it just me or does the Pac-10 have some of the stupidest rules. The one that jumps out at me the most right now is the penalties the conference imposes on students attempting to transfer from one Pac-10 school to another. The standard practice across the nation is if an athlete is released from their current school and wishes to transfer to another Division I program, then the student athlete must sit out one season. Transfers from one Pac-10 school to another, however, mandates the athlete sit out two seasons – not one. I sort of understand this logic from the perspective of the school that's losing the athlete. It's kind of like a baseball team not trading within their own division. But from a conference point of view, why would you want to lose great athletes to other conferences? A perfect example is USC's recently departed Emmanuel Moody who just announced his transfer to Florida. You know, maybe he had no intention of ever even looking at schools like Cal, Oregon, UCLA, Washington or Arizona but because of the conference's ludicrous transfer rule, looking at any Pac-10 school was realistically never an option for a player with Moody's talents. So, instead of Moody maybe leaving USC and going to another conference team that would overall make the conference much deeper, he departs for Florida to help make the already great SEC even greater. Thanks Commissioner Hansen. You really are awesome.
Another Hansenism that's equally frustrating is the Pac-10 Bowl arrangements. Why on earth does the Pac-10 #2 team play in the Holiday Bowl five days before New Year's Eve when every other BCS conferences #2 team plays in a New Year's Day bowl. For that matter, why is it that outside of the Rose Bowl, the Pac-10 representative in every other bowl arrangement has a higher conference place finish than their opponents do (e.g. Pac-10 #4 or 5 plays ACC #6 or 7)?
Can you tell it's extremely late and the Fizz is getting moody? Me too.
Enjoy the games tomorrow and Bear Down, Wildcats!