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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

More than a struggle of Pac-12’s worst

It’s nearly impossible to take much from Arizona’s first five games of 2011, and it’s even harder to find anything positive.

Most expected that the Wildcats would be 1-4.

They are.

It was known that the defensive line lost three NFL-caliber players to graduation, and it would be tough for a bunch of relative unknowns to replace their production.

They haven’t been able to.

Most fans knew Arizona lost all five starters from 2010’s offensive line, and even with Arizona having one of the top quarterbacks in the Pac-12 in Nick Foles, the offense would only go as far as its line would take it.

And so far that’s been to 27.4 points per game, ranking Arizona 71st in America.

On the surface, Saturday’s game at Oregon State looks like a matchup of two bad teams. OSU is winless this season, and Arizona hasn’t beaten a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent since Oct. 30, 2010.

But while that may be true — it’s hard to call two teams without a win over an FBS team anything but bad — there’s more to it than that.

It’s a chance for Arizona to show that maybe it doesn’t have the worst defense in America, a chance to show that the Wildcats are a somewhat competent football team that doesn’t shoot itself in the foot every time an opportunity presents itself.

And most important, it’s a chance to start resurrecting a season that’s off to as bad a start as possible. Arizona is ranked toward the bottom of the country in every major defensive category out of 120 schools: 111th in rush defense, 110th in pass defense, 115th in total defense, 112th in scoring defense, 116th in pass efficiency defense, 116th in turnovers gained, 114th in sacks and 102nd in tackles for loss.

But that could be thanks to Arizona’s schedule.

The Wildcats have run the gauntlet of three straight top-10 teams. They went on the road to the most storied program in the Pac-12. They got beaten down in all four games.

And through that stretch, the silver lining was that Arizona would learn about itself. The Wildcats would learn what they do well, and learn what they don’t.

Now it’s time to see if that happened.

Arizona is about to begin a streak of six straight games that are very winnable. Six straight games between somewhat evenly matched teams.

Win on Saturday against Oregon State, and Arizona could go on one of its patented hot streaks, similar to the one that saw the Wildcats climb to No. 9 in the rankings last season.

But lose, and it’s hard to imagine the Wildcats beating anyone on their schedule save for Louisiana-Lafayette.
So come Saturday evening, everyone will have a better feel for where Arizona’s season is heading — for better or for worse.

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

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