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Arizona football notes: Bad stats, this week’s odds, UCLA’s Neuheisel speaks

Rick Neuheisel never beat Mike Stoops, going 0-3 as his teams failed to gain 300 yards in any game. Photo by Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

Here are two rankings Arizona football would like to have reversed:

The Wildcats have played the toughest schedule in the country, according to Jeff Sagarin’s ratings on USAToday.com.

Meanwhile, Arizona is last nationally among 120 FBS teams in sacks.

The Wildcats have only three sacks — 0.5 per game — and, if possible, the situation is even worse than the actual number.

Really, Arizona has a scant one sack since the second play of the season, when defensive end C.J. Parish dropped NAU quarterback Cary Grossart. The Cats sacked Grossart one more time and then picked up a “team” sack when Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden fell down for a sack in the second game.

That’s it in the sack department.

Other troubling numbers:

–Arizona is 119th in rushing (71.8 yards per game)
–117th in total defense (37.5 points per game)
–116th in total defense (487.7 yards per game)
–Tied for 115th in turnovers gained (five)
–Tied for 115th in penalties (8.17 per game)

And here is a more obscure, yet also worrisome stat, courtesy of cfbstats.com:

The Wildcats have allowed 40 plays of 20-plus yards, which is tied for the fifth-worst total in the nation.

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Neither Arizona’s 10-game losing streak to FBS teams, nor the midseason firing of coach Mike Stoops, scared off the oddsmakers.

The Wildcats opened as four-point favorites for Thursday’s home game against 3-3 UCLA.

The game begins at 6 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN.

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Interim head coach Tim Kish will address the media Monday morning at Arizona football’s weekly news conference.

One of the questions: What will he do at place-kicker?

John Bonano came in to kick the final PAT at Oregon State after more struggles from Alex Zendejas, who started the season on the bench before replacing Jaime Salazar.

One more stunningly bad stat: Arizona has missed as many extra point attempts (14 of 19) as the entire Big Ten (269 of 274).

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Arizona has been off limits to the media since Wednesday, but UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel met with reporters after his team’s practice Sunday night.

UCLA, which is 2-1 in the Pac-12 South, is a half-game behind ASU (3-1) and is the only eligible team that has a realistic chance to catching the Sun Devils.

“It’s exciting around here,” Neuheisel said. “We have a big game on national television, and if we keep this thing rolling and play well this week, we can be in the thick of things.”

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Arizona quarterback Nick Foles moved up to second in the country in passing during the team’s off week, averaging 375.8 yards per game. Houston’s Case Keenum leads the country with 384.3 yards per game.

“Well, he’s an NFL player,” Neuheisel said of Foles. “He’s a guy who gets it out of his hand quickly. He certainly has a mastery of their offense. …

“You have to understand he is going to hit some. You just have to be very, very good at not giving up the big play, and you have to be very, very good when they get close to the end zone.”

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Stoops would have liked to have had another shot at UCLA. He had his second-most success in conference games against the Bruins, going 5-2 and winning four in a row. Stoops was 5-1 against Washington State.

Stoops was 17-35 against the seven other conference opponents he played; he never made it to play against newcomers Colorado or Utah.

Whatever he did on defense against UCLA, it worked. The Bruins never gained more than 348 yards in any of seven games against Stoops and have been under 300 yards in each of the past five.

“Our team has a very healthy respect for Arizona,” Neuheisel said.

“We know we are going to have to play great football to win. And they have the feeling of a fresh start. They probably feel horribly about what has happened to their head coach, and the only way they can make up for it is to play their tails off.”

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Former Arizona defensive end Brooks Reed, a second-round pick of the Houston Texans this year, made his first career start Sunday. He filled in for Mario Williams, who is out for the season because of a torn pectoral muscle.

Reed made six tackles and broke up a pass as the Texas lost 29-14 at Baltimore. He had a total of six tackles through the first five games.

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