Did you enjoy your time off this Thanksgiving?
Rest time is over.
I finally watched the replay of last year's rivalry game and it was more painful than I remembered. Here are my thoughts 51 weeks later:
-Oh look, there's our starting defensive tackle blocking for Nic Grigsby.
-Now, that Spencer Larson guy, I betcha he could play some fullback.
-Itís a good thing we're not calling the "long incomplete pass down the sideline" play as much this year.
-I donít know who dropped more passes, our receivers or our defensive backs.
-Cut that punt return back, Antoine! Donít go out of bounds!
-Get rid of the ball, Willie! Donít hold it so long!
-On the bright side, our second-string running back went from Chris Jennings to Keola Antolin. That's a slight upgrade.
-That fourth quarter drive that put them up ten was all Carpenter. He converted a third down with his feet, then heaved it to his tight end to move the chains again, then threw the clinching touchdown pass. I canít stand that guy.
While the 2008 Devils arenít playing for the conference championship, they are still playing. Unfortunately ASU decided not to implode, and suddenly our records are awfully similar. Remember those two glorious months when they never won? Now theyíve gone a month without losing. Yeahbut, you say, theyíve only beaten the worst teams in the conference. Yeahbut, what do you think Arizona has done?
We have the exact same 4-4 league record. They beat Stanford; we beat Cal. Thatís the difference. The only reason we have an extra win is we beat 3-9 Toledo while they lost to 5-7 UNLV. In other words, weíve spent the whole season laughing at them but weíre pretty much having the exact same year.
So donít let the Devilsí 122 yards of offense against UCLA fool you. We gave up 28 points to WSU. Donít let ASUís 31 sacks allowed lull you into a false sense of security. We only have 19 sacks all year.
As you may have heard, ASUís defense has scored a touchdown in four straight games, including four (4!) against UCLA. PsstÖWillie. Donít throw it to the guys in white.
This game Ė as usual Ė is going to be a war.
Itís a battle with a surprisingly valuable prize waiting for the victor. The executive director of the Emerald Bowl does a great job explaining the quirky Pac-10 bowl tie-ins right here. Because of the working relationship between the Vegas and Emerald Bowls you have to think Cal will be playing in San Fran even if they beat Washington and finish alone in fourth place. Iím sure the Las Vegas folks would be very happy with the UA/ASU winner.
So Iíll call it here: Win and weíre in Vegas for a huge multi-sport party. Lose and tens of our fans are in Hawaii for Christmas.
Who has the edge this week? The team full of players that have never beaten their rival or the team fighting for its postseason lives?
Rudy 3, Willie 0 is hard to ignore. As weíve discussed before, no UA starting QB has ever gone 0-4 against ASU.
It has also been noted that only one Arizona coach has ever lost four consecutive games to Arizona State. He was not around to lose a fifth.
But donít think for a second Iím putting on yellow tights and claiming Sunny victory. Looking at the numbers the UA does appear to have one significant advantage. In conference play the Cats have given up 194 points (24 a game) and the Devils have given up 178 points (22 a game). Not much difference there. But Arizona has outscored ASU in Pac-10 play 275 (34 ppg) to 204 (26 ppg). ASU has only scored 23 touchdowns in league games, and seven of them have come from their defense. If we can put some points on the board, they may have a hard time keeping up.
How many points have to go on the board? When you look at the last three years during which Mike Stoops has reached the .500 plateau, the Cats are 12-0 when leading by more than seven points heading into the fourth quarter, and 1-11 when trailing by more than seven at the start of the fourth quarter. Nothing shocking there.
But when itís a one-possession game heading into crunch time? Weíre 4-7, including last yearís heartbreaker in Tempe. So you donít want to late to your seat before either half. Quarters one, two and three are very important to the Wildcats.
With so much on the line, itís a good year to be playing at home. Our field, our student section, our Senior Day. Itís time for the losing streak to stop. Itís time for the losing seasons to stop. Itís time for the Stoops/Tuitama partnership to put it all together. Itís time for big plays to be made in big moments to win a big game. Itís time.
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