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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Football picked to finish seventh in Pac-10

    Football picked to finish seventh in Pac-10

    LOS ANGELES – It was practically a given where the media would rank USC when they announced the preseason predictions Thursday at the Pacific 10 Conference Media Day. The five-time defending conference champions were only one vote shy of being the unanimous favorite to win the Pac-10 for the sixth straight year.

    But for the Arizona football team, still hoping to make its first bowl appearance since 1998, it wasn’t as obvious how much love UA head coach Mike Stoops would receive from the media.

    Where the Wildcats were ranked, as it turned out, wasn’t much of a surprise. Although Pac-10 media picked Arizona to finish seventh in the conference for the second straight year, Stoops wasn’t too concerned about the preseason forecast.

    “”To me (the preseason polls) are a waste of ink,”” Stoops said. “”For most coaches I would say that is pretty insignificant. We want to establish ourselves as a program that is going to be consistent every time we step on the field, and that is really what we are concerned about.””

    The Wildcats finished 5-7 (4-5 Pac-10) last season due to inconsistencies and lack of steadiness, which may be the reason early predictions once again put them towards the bottom half of the conference.

    In the first season of Arizona’s newly-implemented spread offense last year, the Wildcats were brilliant offensively at some times, but struggled at others. Quarterback Willie Tuitama hopes this year will finally prove to be the turnaround the team has hoped for over the course of the past several seasons.

    Tuitama noted that the second year of the offense’s existence in the program should show nothing but improvement, which could yield better results on the field this season.

    “”(The rankings) put a little bit of a chip on our shoulder, but you can’t focus on that too much,”” Tuitama said. “”You just have to play one game at a time. Rankings are rankings, but we haven’t even started camp yet, so you just look at it and think what you have to think and move on.

    “”I am pretty sure that people are tired of hearing the ‘this could be the season’ stuff and this and that,”” Tuitama added. “”But we just need to go out there and prove to everybody that we have been working hard and everything we do is going to pay off.””

    If there’s one thing that helps the Wildcats this season, it’s an easier schedule than years past. Last season the Wildcats opened in Provo, Utah, against a solid BYU team, later followed by a trip to Berkley, Calif., for their conference opener against then-No. 8 California.

    The Wildcats play a bit milder schedule this season, as their first two games are home against Idaho and Toledo, respectively, before heading to New Mexico to battle the Lobos.

    Both Stoops and Tuitama said a softer schedule that starts off at home could be the key to getting off to a quicker start, something that Arizona has characteristically struggled with.

    “”You want to gain confidence, and the only way you gain confidence or learn how to win is to win. When you lose, there isn’t much you can take away from that. They need to feel the feeling of winning,”” Stoops said. “”It changes a lot of the attitude. Going to work is a lot easier to do when you win as opposed to win you lose, and that’s a fact.

    “”It is nice to be at home. For use to play in our confines and start at home is very critical for us,”” Stoops added. “”We are hoping that we will be able to build a foundation and some confidence. We are going to have a young defense, so the home crowd is certainly going to help us and having that comfort of being at home in front of your people makes us have the tendency to play better.””

    Late Hits

    Arizona received 185 votes in the poll, 23 more than it received in last year’s predictions. … ASU was picked to be second behind USC in the poll, while Cal, which is No. 3, was the only other team besides USC to gain a first place vote. … The preseason poll has correctly the conference champion 25 of 47 times, including the last eight in a row. … USC is the first school to be named the No. 1 team in the poll for six straight years since they had an 18-year run from 1965-1982.

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