Cal game is next step on stairway to the top

2009-11-13T00:00:00Z Cal game is next step on stairway to the top Opinion by Greg Hansen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
November 13, 2009 12:00 am  • 

ESPN's logistics people have engaged the UA in preliminary chatter about the possibility (we'll-get-back-to-you-if-you-beat-Cal) of staging "Game Day" here next Saturday.

They have already put a microphone on Mike Stoops, live at practice this week, and plan to introduce him to the "Game Day" world Saturday morning. Just in case, right?

Just in case Arizona beats Cal.

Just in case there really is a football god and the Wildcats are for real.

Just in case, after decades of wandering the football wilderness, that Arizona isn't, as Stoops cautions, "a one-shot wonder."

"Game Day" on the UA Mall? Lute Olson in the role of the guest prognosticator? The idea is so cool it makes breathing difficult.

And sometime today the Wildcats will drive south on Kino Parkway, climb aboard a chartered jet, and come back to earth when they land in NoCal's East Bay.

In its whole history of Pac-10 football, Arizona has rarely won a game the way it needs to win a football game Saturday in Berkeley.

"We are growing as a program," Stoops says. He did not say "we have arrived." He did not say "we are champs." Yet we, as an audience, rising to our tiptoes, waiting for the kiss of acceptance, are impatient.

We want it all and we want it now.

For at least another 24 hours, Arizona is part of the Rose Bowl conversation, the type of let-me-be-part-of-the-fun chitchat that has eluded it for 10 seasons. It seems so unfamiliar. It's almost like the first time you heard that Washington State might go to the Sweet 16.

It's like motoring past the BMW dealership, pressing your nose against the driver-side window, knowing that the closest you're going to get to that M6 convertible is while stopped for a red light at the crosswalk.

Beat Cal and the light changes.

It is so incredibly difficult to win the Pac-10 football championship that I have come to believe Stoops knows best how to do it. It has nothing to do with better quarterbacking or an improved pass rush.

Stoops wants to reduce the league schedule by one game and recreate the series of "byes" and "misses" that sustained the Pac-10 from 1978 to 2005.

Ordinarily, Stoops is neither a crusader nor a give-me-the-microphone activist who bares his soul. But this year, for the first time, he has spoken with purpose and passion about eliminating the league's round-robin schedule. You don't even have to ask; he sometimes initiates the dialogue.

A consensus has not been built, but UCLA's Rick Neuheisel this week said "for the sake of the conference and becoming nationally recognized, it may be wise to go to an eight-game schedule." Cal's Jeff Tedford and USC's Pete Carroll spoke with similar frankness.

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