So I read that gdazzo fella’s Wildcat Insider prediction for the UA/USC game on Saturday. He’s got it all wrong. In fact, he should stick to covering basketball because while he says there’s no way he can pick Arizona, the Fizz has no problem in calling the upset against USC tomorrow. I agree at times that Arizona needs to be more aggressive on defense. Oregon State was a perfect example of a team the Wildcats needed to blitz more often. This week though it’s the exact opposite. Arizona’s Cover 2 defensive scheme is the perfect way to defend first time starting QB Mark Sanchez. By his and head coach Pete Carroll’s own admissions, Sanchez has a cannon for an arm and is always looking for the big strike downfield in scrimmages and practices. This gunslinger philosophy plays perfectly into the hands of a Cover 2 defense with linebackers dropping back into the seams and forcing quarterbacks to throw over the top where an Arizona safety should be waiting to make the interception, get a hand on the ball or at least lay a ball-jarring hit on the receivers. Arizona this season has yet to face this kind of quarterback. BYU’s Max Hall is putting up huge numbers but he’s doing it by hitting his tight ends or by throwing dump downs to his receivers underneath. The same goes for New Mexico’s Donovan Porterie, NAU’s Lance Kriesien, Washington State’s Alex Brink and Oregon State’s Sean Canfield. The only QB they’ve faced who runs an offense similar in style to USC is Cal’s Nate Longshore. Granted, Longshore had a nice game against Arizona (16/30, 235 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) but by no means did he dominate them. The QB’s that have given Arizona fits have been those who are dinking and dunking them to death. I’ll be shocked tomorrow if the inexperienced but very talented Sanchez will have the patience to always settle for the short pass. If he tries to fit one too many deep passes into some tight spots, Arizona will get the opportunity to force some turnovers.
Of course, two things have to have happen during the game for such an upset to even be a possibility. One, and of most importance, Arizona has to find a way to contain USC’s bruising tailback, Chauncey Washington, while also making tackles. They don’t have to shutdown USC’s running game but they can’t allow them to rush for 200 yards and chew up the clock. Second, when the opportunity to create a turnover presents itself they have to seize that opportunity. By the Fizz’s count, Arizona this season has dropped four game changing interceptions that could easily have resulted in touchdowns for the Wildcats. All could have been key momentum swings but weren’t because of a lack of concentration and execution. When a team like USC hands you a gift, and there’s no certainty that they will, you must take it. I think Arizona finally does capitalize on the mistakes of others for a change and takes the Trojans deep into the fourth quarter. Whether they actually win or not depends on how many points they can put on the board. I’ll set the magic number at 27. If Arizona can score 27, they’ll be singing “Bear Down” in the tunnels beneath the Coliseum at about 4 p.m. tomorrow.
Speaking of egos, alter egos or otherwise, there’s no better ego boost than “Kid’s Week” on Jeopardy. If you’re having a bad day at work and need a reason to justify why you dropped 50K on a college education just to get the job you’re in today, then this is the week to field questions from Alex Trebek while knocking back a cold one.
Win or lose it was a brilliant move by the Arizona Diamondbacks to wear their black uniforms for Friday night’s NLCS Game 2 against Colorado. The move forced the red hot Rockies to wear their white unis instead of their lucky blacks and as subtle a strategy as this is, baseball is one big chess match and the Diamondbacks made a shrewd first move before the game even started.
If you’re a sports junkie, there’s no better bang for your television viewing buck than the new show called SportScience on FSN. I caught the “Human Flight” episode earlier this week and was spellbound. I’d explain the show here for you but no matter how well I could craft the paragraph, it wouldn’t do the show justice. This is one you really do have to see for yourself so go set your TiVo to record the season series now.
As if the Under Armour football commercials weren’t bad enough, they’ve now created a series of baseball ads. If you want to learn how to run a commercial series the right way, check out anything from ESPN. The newest ESPN commercial featuring Tony Romo is flat out priceless. My favorite part is seeing Romo’s guests dancing to “I Wanna Be a Cowboy” as a dejected Scott Van Pelt, who was just denied entry into Romo’s party, walks past the window with his tail between his legs.
Despite my optimism for the USC game, I’m still distraught over the state of Arizona football. As my buddy Troy put it, “I can handle the losses. I just can’t handle being down 24-3 after the first quarter. I’m too old for this stuff.” I couldn’t agree more. Arizona is far from a good football team right now, but things didn’t have to be this way this season. I, for one, love our personnel. There have been a handful of disappointments on both sides of the ball this season, but every team has a few players who fail to meet expectations. On the flip side, Arizona has had more than its fair share of surprises. Terrell Reese, Terrell Turner, Delashaun Dean, Rob Gronkowski, Nicholas Grigsby, Devin Ross, Ricky Elmore and many other newer players have been outstanding on the field. We all knew they were good, but these guys have looked great considering how little game experience they have at the D-I level. I’m just baffled at how Arizona has come out the gate in big games this season. It makes no sense for them to fall so far behind teams before they wake up and start playing to their abilities. You certainly have to tip your hat to Arizona’s opponents who have played well and forced their will on the Wildcats early, but what’s going on in the Arizona locker room prior to games that has our team coming out flat and basically getting dominated in the first quarter? Are they emotionally too high too early and come game time are mentally fatigued? Sounds stupid but this does happen. Or are they too nonchalant with that Go Out There and Go About Your Business mentality that pretty much guarantees a ho hum effort. This remains a troubling mystery.
Instead of only calling his brother Bob Stoops for advice, perhaps Mike should talk to other college football coaches around the country who have resurrected programs. Several coaches come to mind but the one who overshadows all is Kansas’ Mark Mangino. Not only does Mangino remind me of my favorite Italian restaurant Maggiano’s but I’m told he’s one heckuva motivational speaker who knows exactly how to fire up his team without getting them too jacked too early.
Since I mentioned Kansas, let me take a quick look at the Big 12 for a beat. Is there a more underrated conference than the Big 12 right now? With all the hype surrounding the SEC and the Pac-10, the Big 12 has quietly placed four teams in the Top 25 and two teams in the top 11. This weekend features a great slate of conference games that are highlighted by the big Oklahoma versus Missouri game and the very intriguing Colorado versus Kansas State game. What’s made watching the conference games so great this season is that the North Division has finally posed a regular season challenge to the South Division. In the last few years, it seems like the only really big national conference game is the Red River Shootout between Texas and Oklahoma. This season, that game took a backseat to what happened the previous week when North Division teams Colorado and Kansans State upset Oklahoma and Texas, respectively.
This weekend, tune into Fox Sports Net to catch a great televised double header that begins with Missouri visiting Oklahoma and ends with Arizona State playing host to Washington. If you’re a fan of college football, then these are the sort of games you should treat yourself to every Saturday. I’m rooting for Missouri to win because of family ties but I think Oklahoma playing in front of their home crowd will be too tough. In regards to Arizona State, this is exactly the kind of game they would lose when Dirk Koetter was calling the shots. Now that new head coach Dennis Erickson is roaming the sidelines, I expect Washington to keep it close early but will have no answer in defending the duel threat of QB Rudy Carpenter and RB Ryan Torain. Right now, nine Big 12 teams are primed to qualify for bowl games and there’s no reason not to think that all nine won’t go bowling somewhere. For the Pac-10, we’re looking at six of 10 teams playing games beyond Dec. 15.
The Rockies did end up beating the Diamondbacks so despite the great pre game chess move, apparently there’s just no stopping the Colorado Rockies who have now won 19 of their last 20 games. What they’re doing is simply a work of art. I’m not kidding. It’s a work of art. If you need a clearer picture of what a work of art is, take my advice, go to iTunes and download the album from the Guggenheim Grotto. They have a song titled, “Work of Art” that’s simply amazing. Close your eyes and let Kevin, Mick and Shane lay down exactly what a work of art really is.
Have you ever seen a more aggressive promotional campaign than TBS’s endless plugs for the upcoming late night show Frank TV?
One great thing about having playoff baseball on TBS is so far the network has spared us the abuse that Fox traditionally forces baseball viewers to put up with in taking the audience away from the action to show where the celebrity star of their next great hit TV show is sitting in the stadium. I mean, I love seeing celebrities and all but if I wanted to see Keifer Sutherland eating a mustard dog I’d rather go sit outside Pink’s near Melrose Ave. in Los Angeles. That way, instead of being forced to watch Keifer, I could instead choose to watch someone like Anna Faris.
Here’s a funny story from my college days. My buddy Jeff and I were breaking down relish one night in a way that only we can to some neighbors of the opposite sex. Somehow our little tutorial on relish and which brands are best turned into a bet of Jeff and I being challenged to eat nothing but hot dogs for seven straight days. The next morning, praying the girls hadn’t taken us seriously, Jeff opened the door to find three packs of hot dog buns waiting on our doorstep. We only lasted four days but one positive thing did come out of our defeat. We both came to the agreement that the absolute best relish on the market is made by Del Monte. To this day, I hold this to be true so go buy yourself a jar of the green stuff and follow this recipe for a deliciously good home cooked hot dog: Take a standard frying pan and line it with aluminum foil. Place the hot dogs on the bottom and rest the buns on top of them. Use the matching lid to completely cover the pan and seal in the steam. Cook for about 10 minutes (turning the dogs once). Try this for dinner during one of the baseball games and it’ll feel like your right there at the ballpark.
It’s now 12:52 a.m. I’ll be heading to the Coliseum for a little tailgating in about four hours and I’m having a fashion crisis. Trying on outfits for what to wear during Arizona game days has become excruciatingly frustrating. I’m looking for the magic combination of clothes to wear that’s going to help Arizona win. I thought I had the perfect outfit recently but after wearing what I wore during the Washington State victory on the Oregon State game day, that grey UA shirt and red UA hat have since been relegated to non-game day attire duty with about 85 percent of my other school gear. My new red short sleeve with Arizona across the chest and a cool Nike swoosh lost its game day privileges after the New Mexico loss. My blue long sleeve was retired after the BYU game. My favorite fraternity shirt of all time is now my weekend warrior sleeping shirt after losses to Oregon and Oregon State in 2004, Purdue in 2005 and the back breaker of all back breakers, Washington in 2006. My blue hat, shelved. My UA sweatshirt, I jog in that now. My Arizona basketball shorts. I actually wear those to play basketball now. My red and blue Puma’s, haven’t worn them since USC beat us 49-9. You can ask my wife if you don’t believe me, but I spent over an hour sifting through my closet earlier tonight searching for the perfect outfit. I went through a pair of khakis, three pairs of jeans, I even considered shorts and flip flops. I tried on the classic short sleeve over a long sleeve, a new sweatshirt that I recently bought on my trip to Tucson, a plain blue long sleeve, a plain white t-shirt, and three different hats. In the end, it finally hit me. Every time I watch UA play, and especially when I attend a game, I go with the grungy Football Guy look. So, tomorrow, actually, this morning, I’m going with the sophisticated Alumni look with blue jeans, designer shoes, designer blue zip up sweater, red undershirt and a blue Arizona hat. On top of that, I’m pulling a George Costanza and completely doing the opposite of everything I usually do at a football game. That said, I’ll be drinking red wine in Los Angeles tomorrow instead of beer. So there…take that, gods of superstition.
Bear Down, Everyone! And Bear Down, Arizona!