First off, let's get some housecleaning out of the way. The website I use to create the graphics and layout for many of my stories no longer exists. So, until I can figure out a new solution, some things are going to have to change around here. The stories impacted by this right now are the Pac-10 Preview and the Insider Polls. How impacted you ask? Here's the Wildcat Insider Top 25:
1. Ohio State 2. Boston College 3. LSU 4. Arizona State 5. Oregon 6. West Virginia 7. Oklahoma 8. Kansas 9. USC 10. South Florida 11. Florida 12. Virginia Tech 13. Missouri 14. Kentucky 15. South Carolina 16. Hawaii 17. Virginia 18. California 19. Georgia 20. Texas 21. Michigan 22. Auburn 23. Alabama 24. Connecticut 25. Rutgers
Our Pac-10 Rankings now look like this:
Pretty snazzy, huh?
How sweet would it be to be an Eagle right now after Boston College scored two touchdowns in the final 2:11 of Thursday night's game to come from behind and stun the Hokies of Virginia Tech 14-10? What looked like yet another number two-ranked team about to fall, BC literally pulled a win out of the hat after not being able to muster any kind of offense for almost 58 minutes. According to players and coaches, the running theme on the sidelines and in the locker room at halftime was don't quit until the final gun sounds. What a novel idea? You mean to say that if something goes wrong, the coaching staff isn't supposed to freak out, put their hands on their hips and hunch their shoulders. Thinking positive and remaining stoic in the face of adversity actually works? Hmm…
My new favorite commercial is by Subway where a football umpire is explaining to the crowd the reason behind why the penalty flag was thrown. He openly confesses, "I totally blew that call. In fact, it wasn't even close. But don't worry. I'll penalize the other team for no good reason in the second half…to even things up." Not only is it funny, but it especially rings true to my ears because every time a flag is thrown against Arizona (i.e. the phantom face mask call against UA in the USC game – yes this penalty is still burning inside of me) I'm pretty much expecting to hear the official say these exact same words. But of course they don't.
I'm wondering, and I'm not alone in this, if Arizona's getting so many what can only be deemed "questionable" calls made against them because of the sideline behavior of Mike Stoops. Some refs have admitted that he's on a very short leash with them. I'm also wondering if this is fair. This has been a running them in the Fizz on how Stoops seems to get penalized and ridiculed for his in-game antics when every other coach in the country is basically getting away with murder when it comes to pulverizing the refs. Actually, berating is the word I was looking for but you get the point. This week's example of a coach going ballistic with no ramifications from the refs is LSU's Les Miles. Go back and watch the 4th quarter and in particular what happens with about 7:30 to go in the game. Miles is pointing his finger at the ref and protesting a call at the top of his lungs while trying to untangle himself from his headset. Again, I'm not defending Stoops' antics but I'm trying to point out that I really don't think he's much different than many of his peers. He earned a bad reputation early and that reputation, like all reputations in life, is sticking with him no matter how hard he tries to change.
By the way, the spot given to LSU on a key third and long run with 2:11 to go in their game against Auburn was one of the worst spots I've seen this season. The ball hit the ground at least a foot and a half back from where the officials spotted it and of course that resulted in a huge first down. Strangely enough, the official who took authority in marking the spot was the Line Judge who was working along – surprise, surprise – the LSU sideline. Now, do you honestly think Arizona would've gotten that same favorable spot had Stoops five minutes prior broken the ear drum of the Line Judge ala Miles had done. Anyone care to answer that? Oh yes, young man, you in the back.
"Not a chance in [insert biblical fiery place]."
You are correct, sir.
Arizona's dropped two straight against Washington with last season's loss perhaps being the second biggest disappointment of the 2006 campaign (losing the finale to ASU was obviously the worst and most damaging). The good news is the last time the Wildcats did beat the Huskies was in Stoops' inaugural season (2004). The game was played in Seattle and was on, of all days, my wedding day. At the time it seemed like the start of something special and I'm not talking about my marriage because if I associated my marriage with our football program I'd be divorced right now. My close friends and I kidded that I needed to get married more often on our game days because as superstitious as we all are, getting hitched clearly worked. Plus, that was the only way I was not going to find a way to watch our game and as is becoming a painful reality, our team just refuses to give me any sort of pleasure by simply winning a game that I attend or even watch on TV anymore. Holy Bob Toledo I just thought of something…talk amongst your selves for a few minutes. I need to look this up…
Okay. I'm back. And if I'm bleeding it's because after reading what I just researched, I instinctively may have jammed a pair of needle nose pliers up my nostrils. Check this out. In the Mike Stoops Era, Arizona is now 14-28. Of those 14 wins, I haven't attended a single one of them. Worse, and I'm gagging on my own vomit right now, I've only seen six of those wins on television (NAU and ASU in 2004, nothing in 2005, Stephen F. Austin and Cal in 2006 and mercifully, both NAU and Wazzu this season). Strangely, and quite frankly I don't know how this is even possible, I've watched or been in attendance for all 28 losses. Good grief. How pathetic is that? What on Earth have I done to deserve this? Now, the whole wedding joke from 2004 makes total sense. Especially when you consider that Arizona's marquee win, the 2005 Homecoming blowout of #7 UCLA, was a game that I only saw the first quarter of because I was flying to Ireland that day. Again, and I remember the mandate being set forth by my buddy Scott that stated, "From now on Rock's flying to Ireland for every football game," I didn't even get to see the best game of the Stoops Era. I'm clearly the problem. Maybe I should get married once a year and go to Ireland every weekend? Believe me, if I could afford to I would for the sake of the university, but it's just not cost effective for me. Besides, why should I have to go to so much trouble and make such a sacrifice for our team to win when all Stoops has to do is change his game day strategy and let Sonny Dykes run the offense on his own for a change. If he did, we'd have a lot more wins that looked and felt like the Washington State game then these ridiculously conservative, "please God don't let us lose this lead" USC and Stanford types of games. These kinds of games have plagued Arizona from the moment Stoops stepped on campus. In fact, since that one fumble in the 2004 Washington State game, you know the one where the ball popped 10-feet into the air when we were trying to kill the clock and preserve the win, the Wildcats seem almost cursed when it comes to holding leads in winnable games.
It's a crime that ESPN's Gameday Road Show is being broadcast live in Happy Valley this weekend. For all of ESPN's talk about the Pac-10, they sure picked a strange way to snub the west coast powers on one of the biggest weekends in recent Pac-10 history. First, this is only the second time in Autzen Stadium's history that two top-10 teams will square off against each other. Second, a win and USC is right back in the national title hunt while a victory over the Trojans proves that the Ducks are for real and also worthy of BCS Title Game consideration. Add to that the ASU/Cal game in Tempe is the perfect conference double dipper and I'm totally perplexed that ESPN and ABC would choose to feature a Big 10 Game (Ohio State/Penn State) over either of these that will end with the Buckeyes humiliating the Nittany Lions 31-10.
While on the subject, I was trying to figure out what the ABC 12:30 PM PST game is for us west coasters, and guess what, we don't have one this week. Instead, we're slated for a morning game between two Big East schools and the five o'clock Ohio State game. Meanwhile, the aforementioned two Pac-10 showdowns are being aired regionally on the various fox network cable channels. That's just great. Actually, that's a disgrace. Whether this is Commissioner Hansen's doing or the doing of the big television networks, it's inexcusable. The Pac-10 has earned the right to be televised nationally this season and despite what the national media may be saying, their words about "respect" for the west coast are being backed up by very few actions.
Since I'm just a tad moody today (losing to New Mexico and Stanford at home will do that to you), let's lighten things up a bit and talk World Series for a beat. I was glad to see the Rockies respond last night and play the Red Sox tough. Obviously, the nine-game layoff affected their timing in Game 1 as all the experts said it would. They should've never been put in that position in the first place as Commish Selig needs to take a look at that during MLB's winter meetings. I guarantee that if the tables had been turned and it was Boston on Wednesday night looking like the B Team in a split squad game during Spring Training, Selig and baseball's brass would be in discovery meetings right now trying to find ways to apologize to Red Sox Nation for their long in-between playoff series layoff.
Before this season's over, I want to see Todd Helton do at least one more Warrior Pose while stretching from first to beat the runner on the final out of the game. Is that too much to ask for?
Speaking of seeing things, you haven't seen it all until you've seen your pregnant sister crushing grapes with her bare feet in a bucket. Those are the fond images of a life well-lived that will stay with you forever.
Now, if Arizona could just find a way to win at Washington on Saturday…