Commentary: UA on the rise in Pac-10

Published On:
Monday, October 6, 2008
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College football is strange.

As Sun Devil fans sit disgusted by the mess, so do many of the fans of their conference foes.

So much talk and so many expectations rarely lead where they’re supposed to. And in a down year for the Pac-10 Conference, one that will be remembered as one of the worst in recent history, one team has emerged as the one to beat: the Wildcats of Arizona.

It’s not stupid, even though it sounds outlandishly so.

UA (4-1, 2-0 Pac-10) is beginning to make their case. In fact, they’re vying for a Rose Bowl appearance as much as USC or fellow conference undefeated Cal.

Before we go any further, let’s address the obvious fact that UA’s schedule is less than tough. With the 90th-easiest schedule in the nation, the Wildcats’ have had and will continue to enjoy an easy road the rest of the way.

But in all sincerity, it won’t get much harder. Of UA’s remaining seven games, four are at home against some of the Pac-10’s best: Trojans, Golden Bears, Beavers and lastly the Sun Devils.

UA’s toughest road game is against Oregon, but the Wildcats beat a far better Duck team last year.

Cal is emerging from the conference pack as well. We need not discuss the Golden Bears’ last game and, despite their loss to Maryland on Sept. 13, Cal has been playing excellent football.

However, UA holds one more advantage over Cal: The Wildcats get to face USC in Tucson while the Golden Bears must travel to Los Angeles.

USC has lost one home game in seven seasons. Its only loss was a 2007 fluke to an opportunistic Stanford football team.

The numbers simply do not lie. The Wildcats rank in the top three in almost every important conference statistical category. Senior quarterback Willie Tuitama has been lights out with 13 touchdowns against just two interceptions.

UA also has a top runner (sophomore Nic Grigsby) and receiver (senior Mike Thomas).

And these are not the highlights of this underrated team. For as potent an offense as UA has, it is backed by a defense that allows just 226.2 yards and has only given up 76 points for the whole season.
That’s an incredible combination.

UA, whether you like it or not – and you most likely don’t, is the feel-good story of the year. Not just in the conference but also in the nation.

Coach Mike Stoops’ job will certainly be saved and that nine-year bowl drought will end. Because that’s become a certainty, UA can now begin to entertain far greater ideas.

Reach the reporter at joshua.spivack@asu.edu.