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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Pro/Con: Does the Pac-10 get it wrong with nine conference games?

    Pro: Pac-10 teams’ schedule unfairly tough

    Yesterday at his press conference, UA head coach Mike Stoops sounded off on why he thought having each team in the Pacific 10 Conference play one another was a bad idea, saying it decreased each team’s chances for a bowl.

    And you know what? He’s right.

    Let’s take a look around the nation.

    Here’s one top-five team’s out-of-conference schedule: Marshall, Eastern Washington, Maryland and East Carolina.

    And another’s, this one in the top 20: Montana, Syracuse, Iowa State and Northern Illinois.

    Those two teams (West Virginia and Iowa, respectively) are essentially guaranteed four wins before the season starts.

    Even teams like No. 19 Nebraska, which beat Louisiana Tech 49-10 to open the season and Nicholls State 56-7 last week, have the advantage of being able to schedule a marquee matchup like this week’s game against No. 4 USC and still have the option of adding a Troy the week after. In a worst-case scenario, Nebraska’s sitting 3-1 heading into conference play, meaning the team can go 3-5 in conference and still technically be eligible for a bowl.

    On the flip side, consider Arizona’s schedule.

    Sure, the looming matchup with Stephen F. Austin doesn’t look too daunting, but when combined with games against Brigham Young and Louisiana State to open the season, the out-of-conference schedule could’ve had this team at 1-2 heading into conference play.

    No coach attempting to build a program schedules a game against the likes of LSU until he feels his guys are ready for it because winning is about building confidence, and blowout losses to football powerhouses don’t build confidence.

    When a conference forces a team to schedule one less out-of-conference game each season, it severely limits a program’s ability to grow – and, in the case of the Pac-10, each member school’s opportunity to get to the postseason.

    The reality is that scheduling cupcake schools shouldn’t happen in the first place – the big boys should play with the big boys – but if there are other programs out there doing it, you’ve got to join ’em.

    -Ryan Casey, assistant sports editor


    Con: Tougher schedule will yield results

    After having to play USC on the road two years in a row, would you think Mike Stoops would ever be complaining about the Pac-10 Conference’s schedule? Arizona’s head coach wasn’t too fond of a matchup against Louisiana State, originally scheduled by John Mackovic, and doesn’t believe teams with cupcake schedules get adequate criticism from bowl committees.

    Apparently, Stoops wasn’t listening to the rest of the Pac-10 during the conference’s Media Day when coaches and players alike by-and-large praised the rule change from eight conference games to nine, creating a round-robin format and three nonconference games.

    “”I think it’s better to play all nine teams because now the champion is determined by who you play, not who you don’t.”” said Oregon head coach Mike Bellotti, who’s led the Ducks to a 90-42 record in 11 years and included a road game at Fresno State as well as a home game against Oklahoma in this year’s schedule.

    The only way teams get better is by playing tougher opponents, not by scheduling cupcakes who may build confidence but certainly don’t prepare teams to compete at a national level, something Stoops surely envisions for the future of the Arizona program.

    Moreover, an unbalanced schedule can make a team’s schedule even tougher. While Arizona was busy letting Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart feel at home in leisurely wins, the Wildcats were missing out on games against Pac-10 patsies Washington State (2005) and Stanford (2004).

    Basketball head coach Lute Olson’s nonconference schedule features powerhouses in North Carolina, Illinois and Memphis, and the legendary coach always tests his team before entering Pac-10 play. Olson, as you may know, has had a pretty successful formula.

    Of course, after two 3-8 seasons, it’s understandable that Stoops is frustrated over the lack of W’s, but playing an extra game against what Stoops calls one of the “”directional schools”” doesn’t help the box office, hurts recruiting exposure and takes a team off the national radar. Although the Wildcats were blown out by LSU, the experts were talking, ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit even gave Arizona a small chance and the game was televised nationally on ESPN2.

    The Wildcats will have a chance to pat their own backs after an easy game against Stephen F. Austin, but let’s hope one gimme per year is the norm during Stoops’ tenure.

    In order to become the big boys, you have to play the big boys, or else Wildcat football will be stuck as the state’s little brother.

    – Roman Veytsman, assistant sports editor

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