Citizen Staff Writer
2008 PAC-10 FOOTBALL MEDIA POLL
LOS ANGELES – A media poll picks Arizona to finish seventh in the Pac-10 this season, but football coach Mike Stoops wonders . . .
What if he had adopted a passing spread offense when he was hired for the 2004 season, instead of starting it last season, when UA went from averaging 16 points to 28 a game?
In an offense-minded conference, even 28 points a game isn’t enough, but the defensive-focused Stoops knows the Texas Tech-style spread offense that he coached against as a defensive coordinator at Oklahoma might have improved UA’s 17-29 record in his first four years in Tucson.
“Yes,” Stoops said. “In hindsight, being a defensive coach, you like, or vision yourself, being a run-, run-, boot-, play-action-type of team. But we just couldn’t do it,” Stoops said at the Los Angeles Airport Hilton for the annual Pac-10 media day Thursday.
“We just struggled with it and we couldn’t move the ball or get the ball into the end zone.
“You need to score points.”
Stoops still thinks defense will win championships, but he knows a good offense will help you stay employed.
USC has excelled at both, and it’s no wonder the Trojans were picked to win the Pac-10 for the sixth straight season. The Trojans received 38 of the 39 available first-place votes from regional media outlets.
The media aren’t sold on the Wildcats after they finished 5-7 and sixth in the league at 4-5 last year.
For Arizona to move up, it needs to keep scoring points.
“We have to,” Stoops stressed, especially with only three defensive starters returning for UA.
The Wildcats, despite a 12-point and nearly 100-total-yard increase per game over 2006, ranked sixth in the league in scoring offense last season. And that was during a down year for points in the Pac-10.
The league ranked seventh among all conferences with 28.6 points per game, nearly five points behind the leaders from the Big 12.
So many points are being scored, including 26.8 points off an Arizona defense that had 10 returning starters, that Stoops jokingly questioned himself.
“I was a lot better defensive coach when I was at Oklahoma it seems like,” Stoops told a room full of media members. “I don’t know if it was the players or the scheme. A lot has to do with the player you go up against.
“This is one of the premier conferences. There are some outstanding football coaches, offensive coaches – the players you see, the schemes you see. It has been a very enlightening experience to me.”
Those thoughts were seconded by others around the league.
“It’s world class,” Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh said about offenses in the league. “It is a point-generated conference. You have to score points in this league to be a success.”
Points are obviously needed in every game, but lots of them is the point Pac-10 coaches discussed as they talked about the seven returning starting quarterbacks and teams averaging seven offensive starters back for the season.
The offenses in the league are different, which makes it more difficult for defenses to cover.
Arizona uses a Texas Tech-like spread, with multiple receivers. Oregon, Arizona State and Washington run spread offenses with unique sets. USC’s unit uses pretty much a basic multiple scheme.
“I love the (spread) offense,” Stoops said. “The players love it.”
Wildcat fans will love it, too, if it produces more wins and gets Arizona beyond its expected seventh-place finish.
1. USC (38)
• Points: 389
• 2007: 11-2, 7-2
• Coach Pete Carroll says: “We sense a whole new excitement about our program. I’ve never been more pumped.”
• Points: 330
• 2007: 10-3, 7-2
• Coach Dennis Erickson says: “Offensively our strength is Rudy (Carpenter) and what he does at quarterback.”
• Points: 295
• 2007: 9-4, 5-4
• Coach Mike Bellotti says: “Defensively we can talk about our secondary. We have three 3-year starters and they’re tough.”
4. Cal (1)
• Points: 274
• 2007: 7-6, 3-6
• Coach Jeff Tedford says: “There’s a fine line between a 10-win season and a 7-win one. We need to win those (close) games.”
• Points: 204
• 2007: 6-7, 5-4
• Coach Rick Neuheisel says: “It is a thrill to be back in college football and a thrill to be back at my alma mater.”
6. Oregon St. > Points: 192
• 2007: 9-4, 6-3
• Coach Mike Riley says: “We have a lot of shoes to fill defensively. We pretty much lose everybody in the front seven.”
7. ARIZONA > Points: 185
• 2007: 5-7, 4-5
• Coach Mike Stoops says: “This is the best skill we have had, and by far and away our best (offensive) line.”
8. Washington > Points: 139
• 2007: 4-9, 2-7
• Coach Tyrone Willingham says: “I look at it as a challenge. We have one of the most difficult starts in the country.”
• Points: 76
• 2007: 4-8, 3-6
• Coach Jim Harbaugh says: “There’s something special happening. I’m waiting for it to unfold and write our own history.”
10. Wash. St. > Points: 61
• 2007: 4-9, 2-7
• Coach Paul Wulff says: “X’s and O’s will not be our challenge. . . . We have the opportunity to really surprise some people.”
Points per game last year in the Pac-10
Rank School Pts. Avg.
1. Oregon 496 38.1
2. USC 424 32.6
3. Arizona State 420 32.3
4. California 381 29.3
5. Washington 380 29.2
6. Arizona 336 28.0
7. Oregon State 362 27.8
8. Washington St. 308 25.7
9. UCLA 291 22.3
10. Stanford 235 19.6