CORVALLIS, Ore. - Rock bottom is nice, albeit a bit cold, this time of year.
A chilly mist settled on Oregon State's campus Friday, forcing thin-blooded visitors to run for cider and polar fleeces. A tiny ribbon of RVs queued up a day early to attend a football game, more out of habit than genuine interest.
Billboards along tree-lined Interstate 5 advertised today's game, but few are buying into the Beavers - or, for that matter, their opponent.
And why would they? The Arizona Wildcats and Oregon State are a combined 1-8, the only victory coming when the UA dispatched Northern Arizona on Sept. 3.
The teams have won just two of their last 19 games. Arizona hasn't defeated a Div. I team since last Oct. 30, when it outlasted UCLA at the Rose Bowl.
Someone has to win this afternoon at Reser Stadium; the key, UA coach Mike Stoops said, is remembering what it takes.
Arizona (1-4, 0-3) is so inexperienced at so many positions that the simple act of putting a game away seems foreign; the Wildcats haven't held a lead since Week 1.
"Losing creates doubt, and certainly you can't win if you have doubt and lack of belief," Stoops said. "There's a physical part of it, but it's more important mentally to understand how to win this game. … There's a fine line."
Fortunately, the UA is getting closer to striking a balance. In recent weeks the Wildcats have run the ball better, have improved their blocking and have proven - as if there was much doubt - that Nick Foles is one of the best quarterbacks in the country. The UA scored on all but three of its drives last week against USC but lost 48-41.
Foles said last week that although the losses have hurt, "you can't start getting freaked out."
"No matter what - if you're 5-0, 0-5, 1-4, whatever, you have got to stick together and keep getting better every week," he said. "You're not going to see me freaking out. … The key is to just win the game. Two teams that don't have the records they want are going against each other. It'll be a good game."
In the last 11 months, Arizona has lost twice to USC, Stanford, Oregon and Oklahoma State, and once to rival Arizona State.
This year's Beavers (0-4, 0-2) don't belong in that class, having lost to Sacramento State in their opener before falling to Wisconsin, UCLA and Arizona State. Redshirt freshman quarterback Sean Mannion took over for Ryan Katz in Week 2 and has shown some improvement but doesn't appear capable of carrying the team by himself. Senior wideout James Rodgers is back following knee surgery but has yet to re-establish himself as a game-changer.
Malcolm Agnew, the team's top running back, is questionable to play because of a hamstring injury; backup Terron Ward is a true freshman.
That leaves one player, wideout Markus Wheaton, as a threat. The junior from Chandler is coming off an 11-catch, 116-yard performance against ASU. He's averaging 12.2 yards per catch but has yet to score a touchdown.
Wheaton is a tall order for a UA defense ranked 110th nationally against the pass. The Wildcats are surrendering 503.6 total yards per game, sixth-most in the country. Oregon State's offense is ranked last in the Pac-12 in scoring.
Something's bound to change.
"They're as desperate as we are for a win," Stoops said. "We need to try to gain some momentum this week."
• What: Arizona at Oregon State
• When: 12:30 p.m.
• TV: Fox College Sports Pacific (check your cable listings)
• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM