November 20, 2005
It's late November, and there's a chill in the air. Well, as close to a chill as you get in the desert. A twinge of cool perhaps. Call it summer-lite. Regardless, it's time for our annual Duel with our devilish neighbors from the north.
This means all across the Grand Canyon State, chests are puffed up with unearned fan bravado. Both sides guarantee victory. In fact, it won't even be close. If you're a Sun Devil, you know it'll be 1996 all over again. If you wear red and blue, 1986 is more like it.
The boasts are flying at lightning speed. You have a better chance of hearing a rapper admit he's a sub par lover than finding a humble fan during rivalry week. They call this game the second season, so you may as well get your shots in while you're both still undefeated.
About this time last year I put together a list of rebuttals to the inevitable "Rose Bowl" taunts we hear each year. It was a group of achievements the "basketball school" in the state has accomplished more recently than the "football school." You would expect that list to look a lot differently after ASU went 9-3 and Arizona went 3-8. But even after ASU's self-proclaimed return to glory last year, the only thing they took back was the most recent bowl win. Arizona's football program still owns:
The most recent top-5 finish (1998 to 1996)
The most recent top-10 finish (1998 to 1996)
The most recent current-BCS bowl win (1993 season to 1986)
The most recent 10-win season (1998 to 1996)
The most winning in-conference seasons in the Pac-10 (13 to 11)
The most head-to-head wins in Pac-10 era (16 to 10)
The most head-to-head wins overall (44 to 33)
My personal favorite has to be winning one of the bowls currently in the BCS. The four elite bowl games are the Rose, Fiesta, Sugar and Orange. How can you even pretend to call yourself any sort of football power if you haven't won one of those bowls in just a devil's conscience shy of two full decades?
In 1986 Ronald Reagan was president, the Fox television network was born, "We Are The World" was the Record of the Year, and Arizona State won an elite bowl game for the last time. Just for fun, here's a partial list of the teams that have won a current-BCS bowl game since then:
Arizona, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Oregon, Oregon State, Penn State, USC, Washington, Wisconsin (that's ten of the other twenty Pac-10 and Big Ten schools), Kansas State, Colorado, Syracuse, Louisville, and Utah. That sure is a lot of football powers.
Getting to the actual game, from the UA side of things the big story has been the status of record-breaking freshman receiver Mike Thomas. Word surfaced that Money Mike had broken his hand during the Washington game. The first reports said he was done for the season, but now they're saying he's not wearing a cast after a quick surgery and he'll be a game-time decision. The good news is it's his left hand and he usually carries the ball with his right hand. The better news is you don't lose any speed with a broken hand. If they can't catch you they can't hurt you, right?
With the 52 glorious points against UCLA, the Cats clinched a scoring average of at least 21 points a game for the entire season. Cross that Meaningless Fan Goal off the list. After the Washington game we sit at 23.2 points per game. If we can get to 32 points against ASU, we finish with a 24 PPG average. Forty-three points gets you a nice round 25-point average. We only need 76 points against the Devils to average four touchdowns a game. Hey, a guy can dream, right?
The sad reality for Wildcat fans is that this week's game is the final contest in 2005 no matter what happens. After the winning team dances on Sparky's head, Arizona moves immediately into recruiting season. Here's one man's recruiting wish list:
Good offensive linemen
Good defensive linemen
Linemen who are good
Tall wide receivers who can catch
Fast wide receivers who can catch
Wide receivers who can catch
A big tight end with hands like Brad Wood
A big tight end with good hands and a cool nickname like "Build This House With"
A tailback with quick moves and breakaway speed
The poor-man's Reggie Bush
Heck, I'd settle for the dead man's Reggie Bush
That's all. I'm a simple guy really.
Speaking of Reggie Bush…Holy Heisman, Batman. Actually, I don't think the Heisman is enough at this point. Can a football player win a Nobel Prize? Bush individually accounted for over 500 yards in a single game against a top-twenty team. I didn't know you could count PlayStation stats in real life. If speed kills, Reggie Bush has about a dozen nukes in his back pocket.
More from around the Pac-10: I caught some of the Civil War on Saturday. Even though the fog was as thick as Phil Knight's wallet, you still couldn't miss the Ducks' most recent uniform monstrosity. They had what looked like tire tracks on the shoulders and the numbers looked like they fell out of a calculator. And why does it seem like they have new uni's every game? Are they disposable? They should definitely dispose of these digital disasters.
This week there's only one conference game on the slate. This Friday the entire nation will have access to the biggest game in the desert. Only three days of work and one day of thankfulness until we once again go to war over the Arizona Territory. May the best Wildcat team win.
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