Football Season Has Arrived, And Our Boy Is Calculating The Odds.
By Tom Danehy
AT LONG LAST the blessed day has arrived. College football season begins tonight, with the Arizona Wildcats traveling to Hawaii--the land of sun, surf, and 800 hotels all named "Outrigger."
Because the Cats are willing to make that tough trip to Paradise, they are given special dispensation by the NCAA, allowing them to play 12 regular-season games instead of the usual 11.
This year the winner of the Pac-10 won't necessarily go to the Rose Bowl. The latest arcane plan to stave off the playoff system that every football fan in America wants involves some bizarre system which will identify a computer's pick for the top two teams in the country and set them aside to play in the Fiesta Bowl on Monday night, January 4, 1999, for the mythical national championship. And believe me, until there is a playoff, it will be mythical.
Unfortunately, there's a reasonable chance that ASU or UCLA or (gulp!) both could be unbeaten at the end of the season and one or both could pass on the Rose Bowl bid to play in the Fiesta. The two are co-favorites for the conference title and they don't play each other, so it's possible they could both be 11-0 come December. Isn't that an unpleasant thought?
So you could have UCLA and ASU playing in the Fiesta while third-place Arizona plays in its first-ever (severely tarnished) Rose Bowl. Gee, that's a much better system than the one we used to have where a bunch of drunken sportswriters (and Corky Simpson) would use the Senate Southern bloc-voting system to elect Alabama as the national champ.
It's a big year for Arizona football. Unlike past years when the Cats had a great defense and no offense, now they have a great offense and sort of a defense. We'll see if that works.
Football season is painfully short, but that serves to magnify the significance of each game. As always, the Laws of Cause and Effect are in full...well, effect. Gee, I wish there had been a better way of writing that sentence.
Anyway, using the old "If...Then" method we all learned in some class back in school, we'll look ahead at the possibilities of the upcoming Cat season.
THEN: Northeast Louisiana will have turned out to be waaaay better than anyone dreamed possible...Dick Tomey will leave town faster than a snowbird on a hot April day...Lute Olson's young squad will draw more for its Red-Blue Scrimmage than the football Cats will for Homecoming...But the Cats will still draw 57,000 for the game against ASU...The ad campaign slogan for the next season will be "We'll Try For One Win Before The Millennium"...And my friend Todd Judge will surge past J.D. Hayworth to become the most insufferable man in the entire state of Arizona...This won't happen, 'cause they're sure to beat ASU; they always do. So:
THEN: Dick Tomey will keep his job as long as the one win was against ASU...He'll get a contract extension and be elected mayor if ASU was undefeated going into the game...
THEN: Greg Hansen will have poor Dick Tomey on Coach's Deathwatch before the temperature dips below 90 degrees...Long-suffering Cat fans will think back to the good old days when Ronnie Veal and George Malaulu were running the Cat offense...Back-on-the-air Mike "Gabe" Gabrielson, an unrepentant ASU fan, will give the aforementioned Todd Judge a run for his money in the Insufferable Sweepstakes...
THEN: The talk of the Big Game will shift away from UA-ASU and onto next year's long-awaited Amphi-Sabino matchup. Yeah folks, the rumor is that Sabino has run out of ways of staying just under the student population cutoff mark and will be moved up to the 5A division next year. I guess during the count, the usual hiding places for excess students--closets, bathrooms, Emily Gray Junior High--just didn't work this time...Meanwhile, Flowing Wells, which has more on-campus construction than the UA, will stay in the 4A. The ROTC must've been on maneuvers on Count Day.
THEN: They'll get screwed in the bowl-bid process. Nine wins means San Diego, eight means Dallas, and seven means El Paso...Not a dream season, but a likely scenario...
THEN: That probably means they'll find a way to lose the one game they shouldn't have, the 10-9 loss at Oregon or the 24-20 loss at Cal...Whatever they do, they'll find a way to lose the Rose Bowl bid game...That ain't pessimism; that's the Voice of Experience.
THEN: They'll go to the Rose Bowl. Even undefeated, they won't get to go to the phony national championship game. Every computer in America has a Nebraska-Florida State bias chip. A 9-2 Nebraska team would get the nod over a 12-0 Cat squad. And sorry-ass Lee Corso of ESPN would probably find a way to justify it. So while 9-2 Nebraska is playing 10-1 Ohio State (they lost to Michigan) for the "title," Arizona is battling Wisconsin in the lowest-rated Rose Bowl ever.
THEN: They'll finish second in the final AP poll and third in the USA Today after whoever played in the Tostitos Title Tilt.
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