By: Athlon Sports | 9/25/10, 2:39 AM EDT
It wasn’t that long ago that Arizona fans wondered if Mike Stoops was the man for them. The Wildcats had made a habit of teasing their fan base by pulling off stunning upsets in the middle of otherwise mediocre seasons. Why couldn’t Arizona sustain the level of play in the upsets all season long?
But slowly, surely, a Pac-10 power began to develop. It started two seasons ago when Arizona snapped a 10-year bowl drought by earning a trip to the Las Vegas Bowl, where it defeated BYU. Then last season, the Wildcats were in Pac-10 contention for most of the season and ultimately finished in a tie for second place.
Something special could be percolating in Tucson this season. After its pulsating 34–27 win over No. 9 Iowa on Saturday night, the Wildcats look like legitimate Pac-10 contenders. Arizona is the only Pac-10 team never to play in the Rose Bowl. The Wildcats open conference play Saturday at home against Cal.
Oregon, with its scary offensive machine and fast, talented defense, is still the favorite. But don’t forget that the Ducks haven’t played a ranked team yet this season. Oregon’s road win at Tennessee was impressive, but it hasn’t faced at top-10 team like Arizona did on Saturday.
The Wildcats had a 27–7 lead at halftime against the Hawkeyes, saw it entirely slip away, then quickly gained the lead back and held on for the victory.
Stoops did his usual histrionics on the sideline Saturday, seemingly disputing every penalty that was flagged against the Wildcats. But there’s no question that confidence in him and his program has never been higher. Arizona moved up to No. 14 in the latest Associated Press top 25, and there’s a belief right now that the Wildcats can beat any opponent that gets in their way.
Arizona was expected to have a good offense, with nine starters returning. But the Wildcats had a lot of holes to fill on defense, and so far it has been a smooth transition. Arizona ranks third nationally in total defense (220.3 yards allowed per game). The defensive line, led by edge rushers Ricky Elmore and Brooks Reed, sacked Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi six times.
Nevada 52, Cal 31
USC 32, Minnesota 21
Nebraska 56, Washington 21
Wisconsin 20, Arizona State 19
SMU 35, Washington State 21
Oregon State 35, Louisville 28
Oregon 69, Portland State 0
Arizona 34, Iowa 27
UCLA 31, Houston 13
Stanford 68, Wake Forest 24
It was supposed to be the game where Washington could prove it was back among the national elite. Instead, it left some fans in Seattle wondering if the Huskies were good enough to simply get back to a bowl game.
The Huskies were destroyed by Nebraska on Saturday, 56–21. Washington’s unproven defense was dissected by the Cornhuskers’ option offense, and quarterback Jake Locker had arguably the worst game of his career, completing just 4-of-20 passes for 71 yards.
After the Huskies finished last season strongly, and with Locker deciding to return to Washington rather than enter the NFL draft, many believed Washington was ready to make the move up the Pac-10 pecking order. But the Huskies are just 1–2 and showing that there are definitely holes that are cause for concern.
Washington’s only win so far came at home over Syracuse, which has only one win over an FBS opponent in three games this season.
The Huskies have a bye this week before opening Pac-10 play at USC.
Oregon may not have played the toughest nonconference schedule around, but what the Ducks have done so far this season is still grounds for double-takes and jaw-drops.
If there ever was a visual aid for the term, “complete performance,” Oregon fits the description so far. The numbers tell an overwhelming story:
• The Ducks lead the nation in total offense (611.7 yards per game).
• The Ducks lead the nation in total defense (193.3 yards allowed per game).
• The Ducks lead the nation in scoring offense (63 points per game).
• The Ducks lead the nation in scoring defense (4.3 points allowed per game).
Those numbers are tempered a bit when the level of competition is factored in. Oregon has one victory over a Football Championship Subdivision opponent (Portland State) and another over mid-major New Mexico. But even though Tennessee may be rebuilding more than usual, going to Knoxville and dominating the Vols as much as they did, especially in the second half, cannot be understated for the Ducks.
The competition should get consistently better starting Saturday, when Oregon opens Pac-10 play at Arizona State.
Still a pulse
One week after an unsightly 35–0 home loss to Stanford that had UCLA Nation about to step over the ledge, the Bruins responded with a much-needed 31–13 win over No. 23 Houston.
One of the keys to the win was obvious: Knocking quarterback Case Keenum out with a season-ending knee injury in the second quarter.
But Keenum, the Cougars’ record-setting Heisman Trophy candidate, wasn’t exactly lighting the world on fire before going down. He was 11-for-19 for 87 yards and two interceptions, the second of which was the play he suffered the injury.
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