This is rare territory for Wildcats, favored by 31by Anthony Gimino on Nov. 02, 2009, under Sports
Arizona is a 31-point favorite this week against Washington State. How rare is that? Well, the last time UA was favored by that much, the year was … uh, 2008.
I did some research on this last season before UA played Washington on Oct. 8. The Wildcats ended up being 24-point favorites. At the time, that matched the biggest point spread in Arizona’s favor since at least 1990; finding anything beyond that was going to require time in the archives/library that I didn’t/don’t really have.
But when UA played at Washington State last season, on Nov. 8, the spread was 41 points.
Safe to say, that is the largest point spread for Arizona in the Pac-10 era. This week’s game likely is No. 2.
In any case, it’s pretty rare stuff that coach Mike Stoops is having none of.
Stoops said Washington State “is more than capable of coming in here and winning. Does anyone expect that? Probably not. But it happens every week.
“Anyone can beat anybody on any given day. That’s been proven. I feel foolish even talking about it. … I think our kids understand that. Hopefully, we’re smart enough to understand that.”
Stoops was asked, in so many words, at his regular Monday press conference if the quality of this week’s opponent would factor into a decision to rest running backs Nic Grigsby and Greg Nwoko.
That’s not a question that a coach is going to answer completely honestly — why, yes, Washington State is so lame that we’re going to use only our second-stringers — but it’s a reasonable point.
There really is no need to hurry Grigsby and Nwoko back onto the field against the Cougs. Those guys need the extra time off to heal shoulder sprains.
As it is, Stoops said both running backs are “very questionable,” for Saturday’s homecoming game, which begins at 1:30 p.m.
The time-off debate is different for defensive end Brooks Reed, whose ankle injury has kept him off the field for almost all of the past four games. His inactivity means it’s a good idea to get him re-acclimated to the speed of the game before a season-defining four-game stretch to end the season.
“Getting Brooks back this week will definitely improve our defensive position and our ability to rush off the edge,” Stoops said. “That is something that he consistently gives you every time he steps on the field.”
At running back against Washington State, Stoops can use heavy doses of Keola Antolin and Nick Booth. Or the Cats could throw abut 50 screen passes. Those are basically runs, anyway.
True freshman H-back Taimi Tutogi, who is a solidly built 250 pounds, played running back in high school and could be used in short yardage situations, Stoops said.
Preparing for a code red emergency, Arizona will have true freshman Daniel Jenkins ready to rip off his 2009 redshirt. But, if all goes well, he stays on the sideline with Grigsby and Nwoko.
Consider WSU’s defensive stats:
- 119th out of 120 teams in total defense (511.13 yards per game).
- 114th in rushing defense (220.38 yards per game).
- 114th in scoring defense (37.38 points per game).
So, the theme of the week for the Wildcats is not overlooking 1-7 Washington State, not getting heads that grow too big for their helmets with everyone congratulating them for being ranked for the first time in nine years.
Stoops joked that one of the benefits of being ranked — Arizona is No. 21 in the AP poll and No. 18 in the BCS standings — is seeing the team name scroll across the ESPN ticker during other college football games.
“I think you have to take pride in it to stay there,” Stoops said of the rankings.
“But we don’t want to be a one-shot wonder. We have played some awfully good football the last two years. You want to build a consistent Top 20, Top 25 program, and this is something you can take pride in.”