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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

OK State game could be year’s turning point

Arizona’s showdown at No. 9 Oklahoma State doesn’t pass the look test as a season-defining game.

It’s early in the season and against a nonconference opponent — albeit a top-10 one on the road.

Arizona is down its biggest playmaker in receiver Juron Criner, and is facing more or less the same Oklahoma State team that pasted the Wildcats 36-10 in the 2010 Valero Alamo Bowl.

But as Arizona fans know all too well, the Wildcats like to ride the emotional roller coaster — both at its peaks and its valleys.

That’s why Arizona needs to start its ridiculously tough four-game stretch on the right foot, or the season could be over two weeks in.

In the past three seasons, Arizona has put together winning streaks of four, three (twice) and two, which happened five times.

In the same three seasons, plus an extra year, 2007, the Wildcats saw themselves go on losing streaks of five, three and two, which happened three times.

With a three-game slate of No. 6 Stanford, No. 13 Oregon and at USC — which fell out of the top-25 after an opening 19-17 win over unranked Minnesota — Arizona can’t find itself on one of its downswings to open Pac-12 play.

Tonight’s game isn’t a must-win. And on paper, this isn’t a game that UA should win.

This is an Arizona team that entered 2011 without high expectations from its fan base, thanks in large part to the brutal four-game stretch the Wildcats must weather after mashing NAU 41-10.

Still, Arizona’s a team that should make a bowl game and be competitive in nearly every game it plays, including a game against the No. 9 team in a hostile environment.

Arizona might even be entering tonight’s game with the upper hand, at least at the start. After the beating they took in the Alamo Bowl, the Wildcats will almost certainly have an emotional advantage.

Road game or not — remember, the Wildcats have played away against top-5 Oregon and in front of nearly 100,000 people at USC — people underestimate the impact of getting another shot at the team that might have enjoyed that 26-point victory a little too much last December.

Still, if Arizona comes up short, it’s not the end of the world.
There’s nothing wrong with a loss to a top-10 team on the road. It happens. Good teams get beat, so do great ones.

But for the sake of the rest of the season, a 20-plus point beating — like the ones Arizona has taken against elite teams for the past two seasons — just can’t happen.

— Alex Williams is a journalism junior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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