August 27, 2006

by Scott Terrell

Finally. The football season is starting this week. I finally get to write a season preview. Next week's column will have game notes. 'Tis a grand time of year.

Speaking of good tidings, in light of this past week's news out of Tempe, how beautifully surreal was it to have our fan base united behind our coach and starting quarterback while someone else dealt with the secret meetings, accusations, and in-fighting for a change?

On to the positive thinking. The LOAD team and AFOOL are having a joint meeting this year because they both seem to be on the same page.

If you recall from last year, the Line Of Agonizing Disappointment is the minimum number of wins your team needs for you to be satisfied with the season. This has nothing to do with team goals. This is about you, the individual fan.

The most important rule: You cannot lie. No sandbagging by setting an overly low win goal so you can start the chest thumping early. This has to be the number of victories you are honesty expecting in your heart of fanatic hearts.

Last year my LOAD was five wins, and I was right. When we didn't win five I was very disappointed. Those last two games bothered me all through the offseason, and they will cause more head shaking every time I think back to 2005.

With that in mind, as I looked forward to this year I figured I'd again set the LOAD at five and give it another try.

But it's not working. You can't deceive yourself. And when I look at the young stars of last year coming back a year older and stronger, with another layer of top-20 recruiting talent behind them, I must admit I'd be disappointed with a losing regular season record no matter what it is.

On the other hand, last year I would've been fine with six losses and I'd be fine with six losses this year. I'm easy-going like that.

If you've done your math, that means I'm setting the bar at six wins. If you've done your college football math, that means it's bowl or bust for this Wildcat fan.

This is where AFOOL comes in. The Arizona Football Online Optimists League represents the worldwide body of believers that predicts the UA Wildcats will be playing in a bowl game every year. Let this year's dreaming begin.

The Mountain West game is at home this year. So is the ASU game. Washington State is back on the schedule, and they haven't fired their coach yet. There are seven total home games. Yes, two of them are USC and Cal, but the Bears are iffy at quarterback and the Trojans are replacing half of Greece.

The road map looks like this: Win three games in September (BYU, Stephen F. Austin, and Washington), two in October/early November (out of UCLA, Stanford, OSU and WSU), and one in November (guess which one I'm hoping for).

Best-case scenario? We've got a bowl bid wrapped up by Family Weekend. BYU, SFA, Washington, at Stanford, OSU. Five winnable games before Halloween and four are at home. Pull them all off and score one upset (at LSU, USC, or at UCLA) and you've already banked six wins. Unlikely? Sure. But the point is it sure looks like this schedule is more likely to produce eight wins than another eight losses.

As we talked about last week, the 2005 scheduled ended up being easier than expected, but we still came up way short. We lost both of our conference Must Wins last year (Washington and Stanford). Not good. This year's Pac-10 Must Wins are Washington and Oregon State. We now owe the Huskies, and the OSU game will be in front of a big Family Weekend crowd and they're still starting the guy who threw 19 interceptions last year.

The Territorial Cup game is always huge but this year we might be facing the same scenario the Devils faced last year: Win or stay home. Working in our favor is that fact that ASU is counting on three transfers and six junior college players to improve its 114th-ranked defense. With all those new faces they might not even know each other's names by the time we play them. It's like a hostel over there. A hostile hostel.

The BYU game to open the season may just be the most important game of the year. Many said so about Utah last year, and they were right. After blowing the Utah game we went almost two full months before finally beating a D1-A football team. Actually, let's upgrade that "maybe" to a "probably." We absolutely must do everything humanly possible to beat the Cougars on Saturday.

After BYU, all the talk is about LSU and USC but all I'm thinking about is SFA and UW. A 3-2 record is a great start for the '06 Cats. If we don't have three wins by October 1, we will have to make up for it by the first week in November when we complete the Stanford/OSU/bye/WSU stretch. Without five wins after nine games, we would have to pull off some upset magic against Cal and Oregon in November.

So here are your bowling check points: 3 wins by the end of September, 4 wins by Halloween, 5 wins by Thanksgiving, and win #6 on Saturday November 25, 2006.

To keep with the theme of positive thinking, here are this year's Pac-10 bowl tie-ins:

Thursday December 21, Las Vegas Bowl (4th place)
Sunday December 24, Hawaii Bowl (6th place)
Wednesday December 27, Emerald Bowl in San Francisco (5th place)
Thursday December 28, Holiday Bowl in San Diego (2nd place)
Friday December 29, Sun Bowl in El Paso (3rd place)
Monday January 1, Rose Bowl in Pasadena (1st place)
Monday January 8, BCS Championship Game in Glendale.
(Just in case.)

Do not forget, this is Year 2 of the *kick* Bear Down! movement. It is my crusade as a fan to get the entire Stadium to yell "Bear Down!" after every kickoff. We had a few pockets of participation last year but I'm going to be doing a lot more recruiting this time around. Red Zone and south end zoners beware. The red cowboy hat is coming.


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