October 22, 2007

(Stanford 21, at UA 20)

Only 313 Q-tips until next year.

I guess they couldn’t call them worst case scenarios if they didn’t happen from time to time. The problem is, with Arizona Football, “time to time” is all the time.

People complain about Coach Stoops being inconsistent, and that just isn’t true. He has now lost two “I can’t believe what I’m seeing” home games for the third straight year. Stanford and Washington in 2005, Washington and ASU last year, and now a New Mexico/Stanford coupling. This year he didn’t bother saving the second tank job until after a big upset win, so at least he’s mixing it up a bit.

No one should be surprised that after five games of using the “HEY, WE’RE GOING TO RUN A QUARTERBACK SNEAK!!!” formation someone finally said, “Hey, I think they’re going to run a quarterback sneak,” and stopped it.

Red jerseys and blue pants: 2-0 as home underdogs, 0-3 as the home favorite.

I just cannot comprehend being 2-2 at home at this point. 5-1 was the goal at the start of season and there is nothing about the teams on the schedule that should have changed that. In fact, with how inconsistent UCLA has been you could argue that a 5-0 home start should have been the minimum expectation, with 12 days to prepare for the attempt at that sixth win.

New Mexico! Stanford!

How ridiculous is it that after just eight games – with a third of the season still remaining – ASU has already clinched a better record than us? We already know that for the sixth consecutive year the Sun Devils will be looking down at us in the standings. And it’s not even Halloween yet!

I don’t want to hear anything about their schedule either. I know I was leading the parade of jokes about their airport-less out of conference schedule, but they won every single game. We’ve played three of their four “easy” Pac-10 teams and lost to two of them. To paraphrase the old saying: ‘Tis far better to win and be thought a fraud than to lose and remove all doubt.

You know what else really, really stinks? The Pac-10 is down this year. Maybe not from top to bottom, but definitely at the top. USC has big-time injury issues and they’ve already lost once. UCLA is bad enough to lose to Notre Dame. Oregon has to be the favorite at this point and they’re still relying on a guy who threw 14 interceptions last year and two in their only loss this year.

And Cal? Two weeks ago they were a single victory away from being the undisputed #1 team in the land, and now they’re traveling to Tempe carrying a two-game losing streak. How do you get a break like that? Can you buy good fortune with U-Haul frequent-mover points?

The Pac-10 is wide open for the first time since Pete Carroll showed up. It’s frustrating that we’re not good enough to take advantage of it, and it’s downright nauseating that our bitterest rival just might be.

Where on earth do we go from here? Three days ago I would’ve said there is no way we’re going to change coaches in 2007. No one was happy with how the season was going but the thought was you just couldn’t throw out three years of rebuilding after one down year. But by “down” we all meant 5-7. Now we’d have to pull off one small upset and two enormous ones to even be considered mediocre.

It now appears that when Jim Livengood announced he still believed in Mike Stoops, Stoops took it as a personal challenge. “How about now? Do you still believe? If you do I’ve got lots of other 4th down plays that might change your mind.”

The entire spectrum of terrible is now possible and must be considered. So where exactly is the point of no return for this regime? Here is one man’s guess:

Final Record: Result
6-6: Much rejoicing; the witch doctor is made a permanent member of the staff
5-7: Collective exhaling, but another year of complaining and wait-and-seeing
4-8: No-man’s-land*
3-9: If the one win is against ASU you kick him out, but not as hard
2-10: Naked we were born into this era, and naked we shall depart

(*This is the hardest one to call. Either you write a really big check to get rid of a guy who finished 2-2 under intense pressure, or you let apathy spread like mad. And so, because this is the scenario where there is no clear answer and nobody wins, this the record I’m predicting.)

The fact is recruiting is shot this year. We have to win out to show no improvement, and even that is too easy for other programs to beat. You can only bring in top talent by A) being good, or B) making people believe you’re going to be good. There’s not going to be a whole lot of believing this winter.

So do you take the recruiting and ticket sales hit and hope the current guy can win enough to shed the lame duck label next year (and don’t forget, the crippled water fowl turns over his entire defense, the supposed backbone of the program), or do you take the big plunge and start over for the third time in a decade?

We gambled with a young coach, he’s struggling, and he needs something drastic to turn things around. But the problem with bringing in an inexperienced head coach is when you need him to pull something out of his bag of tricks, he doesn’t have any tricks.

And that’s no treat.

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