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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Media picks Cats to finish sixth

LOS ANGELES – Improvement in terms of wins and losses has not yet come for the Arizona football team under head coach Mike Stoops, but respect has increased for a team that went 3-8 in each of Stoops’ first two years.

The media picked the Wildcats to finish sixth in the Pacific 10 Conference, their highest placing since Arizona was picked to win the league in 1999 following a 12-1 season in 1998 capped by its last bowl game appearance, a win over Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl. In the last five seasons, Arizona has finished no higher than eighth, but expectations have risen with the influx of talent unseen under previous head coach John Mackovic.

“”I’d say that’s an understatement,”” ASU head coach Dirk Koetter said. “”Coach Stoops has definitely started to build that program with defense, which is different than Mackovic did.””

Southern California was once again picked to win the Pac-10 but was not a unanimous pick as it was the last two seasons.

“”Three years ago we found ourselves in a similar situation and hopefully we’ll respond the same way,”” said USC head coach Pete Carroll, who lost the past two Heisman Trophy winners to the NFL in quarterback Matt Leinart and running back Reggie Bush.

California, Oregon and ASU followed USC in the media poll, and all received first place votes.

UCLA was picked to finish fifth, followed by the Wildcats, Oregon State, Washington State, Stanford and Washington. The media has picked the correct champion the last six years, choosing incorrectly last in 1999 when the Wildcats were slated to be champions.

Washington head coach Tyrone Willingham has seen Arizona and the Pac-10 change in his two separate coaching stints in the conference.

“”I don’t think there’s any question that they have improved and they’re on the right track, and I think the entire conference – in the three years since I was at Notre Dame – is a much more formidable conference top to bottom,”” he said.

Most coaches said the Wildcats have made drastic improvements under Stoops, who himself finds the Wildcats ready to take the next step.

“”The past few years have been a little uncomfortable but not unusual,”” Stoops said. “”I think our team has made a lot of improvement in a lot of areas, and I think certain things have to happen within your program to win.””

As for the accuracy of the media poll, Oregon head coach Mike Bellotti put his colleagues’ feelings into words.

“”Whatever they picked us, I want to finish higher, and I don’t worry about anything else,”” he said.

Pac-10 TV deal extended The Pac-10 and Fox Sports Net have reached a multi-year agreement to extend FSN’s exclusive rights to 18 Pac-10 football games per season and 35 Olympic sports events, Pac-10 Commissioner Tom Hansen announced at Pac-10 Media Day.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

“”FSN understands and values the Pac-10 and its excellent programs in a broad range of sports, and it will provide the conference important exposure in many of them,”” Hansen said in a press release.

The conference previously agreed to a long-term deal with FSN in May to broadcast men’s basketball games through the 2011-2012 season.

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