Feature: Arizona Ready for Consistent Play
Aug. 1, 2007
By Mike Ritter
Arizona Daily Wildcat
August 1, 2007
Tucson, AZ (CSTV U-WIRE) -- It was no surprise when it was announced Thursday at the Pacific 10 Conference Media Day that USC was the unanimous favorite to win the conference for the fifth straight year.
But the Arizona football team, despite finishing last season .500 (6-6, 4-5 Pac-10) and becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 1998, received some discouraging news when it saw it was picked No. 7 in the poll.
'Our expectations are much different going into this season than they ever have been,' said Arizona head coach Mike Stoops. 'We're extremely high on this football team, and I think our work habits really match our expectations. Our attitude is much different as a football team.'
Stoops stayed on the defensive when talking about his program, noting that the Wildcats had several key wins last season against ranked teams, including Washington State, California and Oregon, for the team's final three wins.
Stoops said he was not surprised, however, to see his team picked to finish seventh, even after it finished in a four-way tie for fifth place last season.
'I think it's just a lack of consistency in our program,' Stoops said. 'When you look at the fluctuation in the way we play, I think it's probably the biggest disparity.
'We've shown we can beat a top-five, -10 team, and then against some teams we haven't played very well. We've actually played stronger against the top half than we have the bottom half. It shows a lack of maturity and consistency in our program, and that's something we have to overcome.'
Stoops added that he expects his current team to make its first bowl game since 1998.
In 2006 Arizona was picked to finish sixth, the highest prediction since 1999, when it was picked to win the Pac-10 (actual finish: sixth).
There is a large discrepancy among Arizona's rankings in several preseason polls. ESPN has it finishing as high as third in the conference, but the reporters who cover the team ranked it seventh.
Cornerback Antoine Cason, the team's player representative, was not surprised by the low prediction, either, and said Arizona can use it as motivation to prove the media wrong.
'What can you expect from people?' Cason said. '(We finished) 3-8, 3-8 and 6-6 (in the last three seasons). You can't expect to be much higher than where they put you. To combat that, you just play football.
'I don't expect to be rated top-three in the Pac-10 in preseason. No one's gonna do that. Those teams have consistently been winning - that's why they're up there. We just need to get on a roll and start winning and we'll be right on up there.'
The Wildcats received 162 votes in the poll, which has successfully predicted the winner 24 of 46 times, including each of the last seven years.
But it is only the third time that a team has been the unanimous preseason pick to win the conference title. The last two times were in 2004 and 2005, when USC triumphed.
Speaking of the Trojans, new Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh caused a stir with his comments on Pete Carroll's football team.
'They may be the best team in the history of college football,' Harbaugh said. 'I think their current team is that good.'
Added new ASU coach Dennis Erickson: 'You really want my evaluation of USC? My opinion is they should be playing in that league that I was successful in: the National Football League.'
(C) 2007 Arizona Daily Wildcat via CSTV U-WIRE