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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Power of Pac-10 plummeting

    Jake Lacey/Arizona Daily Wildcat UA receiver Mike Thomas (10) tries to run past Stanford cornerback Wopamo Osaisai in a 24-23 Cardinal win in Palo Alto, Calif., on Saturday. Though the Pac-10 is nicknamed the Conference of Champions, I guess its just not as strong as it has been in the past, Thomas said.
    Jake Lacey/Arizona Daily Wildcat UA receiver Mike Thomas (10) tries to run past Stanford cornerback Wopamo Osaisai in a 24-23 Cardinal win in Palo Alto, Calif., on Saturday. Though the Pac-10 is nicknamed the Conference of Champions, “”I guess it’s just not as strong as it has been in the past,”” Thomas said.

    The Pacific 10 Conference’s nickname, the Conference of Champions, doesn’t carry much weight this football season.

    This week on ESPN.com, four Pac-10 teams could be found in the “”Bottom 10″” football programs in the country – ASU, UCLA, Washington and Washington State. It’s an undoubted low point for the conference in recent times. Just last year the Pac-10 was considered by the national media to be on par with the highly touted Southeastern Conference.

    This season it couldn’t be farther from the truth.

    “”The Pac-10 is the Pac-10. I mean, it’s still a good conference,”” said senior wide receiver Mike Thomas. “”I guess it’s just not as strong as it has been in the past.

    “”Usually you have four or five teams ranked in the Pac, and this year you don’t have so many,”” he added. “”I guess it’s just that things have changed and I guess (the conference isn’t) as potent as we used to be.””

    Pac-10 teams have posted a 1-6 record against the Mountain West Conference this year, with the lone win being California’s win over Colorado State. Only two teams are ranked in the top-25 polls: No. 6 Southern California and No. 25 Cal, respectively. Part of the reason is a rash of injuries. See Oregon, UCLA and Washington State’s quarterback carrousels.

    But how did some of these Pac-10 teams fall so far so fast?

    “”A lot of it gets down to recruiting I think,”” said UA head coach Mike Stoops. “”I think stability in programs is key, and then recruiting.

    “”That’s probably where I’ve noticed some disparity,”” he added. “”The defensive personnel to stop these modern day offenses, you have to be very well equipped because people spread you out and they’re just good. Each of us have different problems and issues that you deal with day to day.””

    Some schools have dealt with those issues better than others. Oregon is still 3-1 in Pac-10 play in spite of their quarterback conundrum. Even Cal, which has started two different signal callers this year and is in the middle of a quarterback controversy of its own, is leading the conference.

    But with the Pac-10 in a perceived down year, does that put more pressure on Arizona to reach that elusive bowl game?

    Not according to Thomas.

    “”We feel like it’s our time to make a stride and that’s what we’ve been doing,”” Thomas said. “”We’re a lot better than we were in the past. … As long as we keep playing, we don’t worry about all that stuff. Our goal is to get to a bowl game.””

    Getting to play a second game in December – or the outside chance of playing on New Year’s Day – could be more attainable than in recent years thanks to weaker play by other teams so far this season.

    Arizona still has Washington State and ASU on its schedule and the aforementioned banged up Oregon squad, but Stoops doesn’t see an advantage in what college football pundits are calling a less-than-robust conference.

    “”Any win is hard to get. To play 60 minutes of good solid fundamentals and do the things you need that are necessary to win, you have to do that against every team,”” Stoops said. “”If we didn’t do that against Washington we wouldn’t have won that game, but our kids understood that. You can’t take anything for granted or you’ll get beat.””

    Just ask USC.

    After USC beat Ohio State 35-3 in Los Angeles in early September, Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke said on ESPN’s “”Around the Horn”” that they should be given the national title right then and there because the Trojans would now obviously win every game.

    They lost the next time they touched the field in Corvallis, Ore., to a team that was walloped by Penn State 45-14 two weeks prior.

    But Arizona might be able to learn from USC’s loss and even its own losses to New Mexico and Stanford. If the Wildcats are going bowling this season, they have no choice but to learn.

    “”In this era of football, I think there’s so much parity that you have to be sharp every time you step on the field,”” Stoops said. “”If you’re focused and have the right intensity about you throughout the course of the week and in your preparation, I think you play well. I think our kids are learning that as we go along.””

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