Game #6 : October 18 @ Arizona, 7:00 PM (televised on Comcast Sports Net West).
TwistNHook: Who would have thought that Willie Tuitama would look like one of the best bets for solid QB play in all of the Pac10? With all the uncertainty surrounding QBs these days, Arizona has to be feeling pretty decent about itself. But what about the rest of the team?
Yellow Fever: Well, they lost their top cover guy in Antoine Cason, so their secondary can't be all that fantastic this year. Or can it?
And this is an aside not really related to Arizona specifically, but I think it bears asking; if the spread is so god damn effective even with a mediocre team like Arizona, why the hell aren't more teams using it? Obviously, a lot of them are, but if Arizona can use it that effectively and see those kinds of results in one year, what is everyone else waiting for?
TwistNHook: We tried the spread (TedSpread) back in 06 to mixed results.
And what team did we lose to that year (and on the road at that)?
ragnarok: Has the spread really worked for Arizona? I mean, they're better than they were, but they're still not *good*. They've managed to pull a few upsets over the past few years, but even with a veteran quarterback (Tuitama) and the supposedly 'magical' spread offense, they still ranked just 56th in scoring offense last year, putting up 28 points per game. Further, when you consider that 42% of their points last year came in blowouts of UW (92th in scoring defense), WSU (97th) and Northern Arizona (a 6-5 I-AA team), their offense actually looks pretty mild. 5 times last year they scored 20 or fewer points, including a 21-20 loss at home to Stanford, who ranked just 65th in scoring defense.
The spread offense, like the option before it, has been very effective at leveling the playing field for less-talented squads. It generally does this by trying to create mismatches in space, where smaller, shiftier guys can exploit it. However, bigger and faster defenses can work to shut down the spread (which is why you never see it in the NFL), and as more and more teams adopt the spread as their base offense, fewer opposing defenses are surprised by it, thus weakening its effect.
You also need the right kind of QB to run the spread, which is why, after Dennis Dixon went down last year, Oregon's offense ground to a halt under Brady Leaf's statuesque 'guidance'.
HydroTech: If Arizona was a drug, I'd be high on Arizona. In fact, I'm high on Arizona. I think this team is capable of a bowl season after a 10 year drought.
"Yes, Virginia, there was a time when Arizona football was good."
On offense, Arizona looks to be pretty good. QB Tuitama returns (62.4% completions; 28/12 TD/INT ratio). RB Nicholas Grigsby returns (4.4 yard average, 759 yards). Top 4 WRs Mike Thomas, Terrell Turner, Rob Gronkowski, and Delashaun Dean return. WR Thomas is a very good wide receiver and shouldn't be taken for granted considering his small 5'8" 195 lb. size. He had 83 receptions for 1038 (12.5 average) and 11 TDs last season. Considering how much Arizona throws the ball he's almost assuredly going to have similar stats in 2008. Thomas will play in the NFL next year. On the OL, Arizona returns 4/5ths of it's line. All four returning starters pretty much started all of last season so assuming a player gets better with more and more experience, Arizona's OL should provide better pass protection for Tuitama when Tuitama attempts an average of 44 passes a game! As for the running game though, that is probably Arizona's weak spot on offense. While their returning RB Nicholas Grigsby does average a solid 4.4 yards per carry, with Arizona becoming more and more of a passing team the OL has become bigger and slower and not ideal for run blocking. Nevertheless, Arizona only runs Grigsby around 13 times a game so it's not like Arizona will be playing to their weakness.
On defense though, Arizona only has 3 returning starters. If Arizona wants to make it's first bowl game in 10 years, it'll be up to their offense to keep them in the game while the defense presumably goes through the growing pains of breaking in new fresh players. All in all, I do think Arizona has a very good chance at making a bowl game. Afterall, they do play perennial cupcakes Idaho, Toledo, and New Mexico. Assuming they clean the table of the junk food, they'll only have to win 3 more Pac-10 games to be bowl eligible and 4 games to guarantee a bowl berth. Arizona should have a better record in 2008 than their talent level (due to the cupcake schedule), but I do think this team is a solid middle of the road Pac-10 team and should put up a decent fight against most teams.
I'm sayin a Cal win 38-28.
TwistNHook: They cal Arizona cheesin', because it's Fon To Due.
I hope Hydro is right about Arizona making a bowl this year. Because that might be the only thing to save Stoops' job, after a 17-29 record over 4 seasons. And I so love my "Will Mike Stoops Head Explode This Game?" bets I make with all my friends.
Don't take that away from me, Arizona AD. Don't do it!
HydroTech: Wow, TwistNHook actually said something insightful.
ragnarok: Yeah, that's two roundtables in a row. One more and HE'S ON FIRE!!!
TwistNHook: BOOMSHAKALAKA! While a lot has been made of the improved Arizona offense (they were 10th in the nation in passing last year), let's not forget the D. We already mentioned the loss of their stud DB. Devin Ross is the man tasked to replace Cason there. He has apparently impressed in practice, but we shall see. They only have 3 returning starters, none of which are on the DLine. A completely brand new DLine. That can't bode well, can it?
The concern is that Longshore doesn't play as well on the road as he does at home. I would feel more comfortable with Riley playing this game, but who knows? Cal will clearly need to put up a lot of points to win it. This one could be tougher than many people think. Nonetheless, I think we get revenge for the Big Toe Game back in 06. Tons of fireworks in this one. Massive offensive explosions. Cal 8-4.
"Not sure I like what is going on here."
Yellow Fever: I don't see Arizona making a bowl this year. Why? Because I never have! BA DUM CHING Cal 53-2.
CBKWit: We better beat these guys. On the list of incredibly painful defeats from the last 6 years (@ Oregon '03 & '05, OSU this year, every game in LA), Arizona '06 might be alone at the top. Even if you forget all of the almost moments, like the Hawk tripping on himself at the 1 yard line and DeSean stepping 1 centimeter out of bounds, the play that sticks in my mind was the abominable PI call on Daymeion Hughes. That single call kept us out of the rose bowl. Just typing this is making me nauseous again.
I like that we play them relatively early in the season. Every year in November, Stoops somehow riles up the troops to pull off a major upset which saves his job for another 9 months. The year before we were brutalized in 2006, Arizona crushed a luck inflated top 10 UCLA team, and last year they simultaneously ended Dennis Dixon's Heisman campaign and Oregon's National Championship hopes. As long as we play them in September or October, I'm completely fine with Stoops going 5-7 and beating a top 10 team in November to save his job for the next 20 years. 31-27 Cal.