Dear Mr. Football: Why don’t they just postpone today’s game until Monday like the high school kids did?
A: Because no one wants to give up their money, and I’m not talking about the Pac-12’s media rights deal with ABC/ESPN. The UA spends close to $200,000 for game management and game operations. It’s an on-duty roster that never seems to end:
On-site plumbers, electricians, EMTs, ushers, ticket takers, security, an in-game clean-up team, a post-game clean-up team, parking attendants, clock operators, the chain-gang, the policemen who operate street light controls. The concessions crew alone numbers more than 400 people.
The UA pays almost $20,000 to the seven officials and another $3,000 for the TV replay official and his staff. College football is a Money Game and it doesn’t stop at the million-dollar coaches. Someone is getting his Christmas money by hauling those port-a-potties to and from the tailgate parties.
Dear Mr. Football: Is it true the Ducks are looking forward to rain?
A: It was 22 degrees on the UO campus for Friday’s 8 a.m., classes. Oregon tight end Pharaoh Brown tweeted “It’s so cold I can see my breath in my car.”
The most legendary game-day rainstorm in modern UA football history was opening night, 1982, against Oregon State. Arizona Stadium was essentially surrounded by a moat. You couldn’t get through the gates without getting your shoes wet.
The Wildcats were so undeterred by the slop that Vance Johnson (on a grass field) returned the opening kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown.
Dear Mr. Football: Is Ka’Deem Carey going to set some records today?
A: Ka’Boom needs 118 yards to become the school’s career rushing leader, but it’d be more likely he (or someone) will break Carey’s record for kickoff returns/yards in a game. Predictably, Carey set that record in a 56-31 loss to the Ducks at Arizona Stadium two years ago, returning nine kickoffs for 197 yards.
The proliferation of kickoff returns is unprecedented in the Pac-12. Over the last five years, the Ducks have whipped Arizona by an average of 50-29. That’s 252 points. No other opponent in UA history has done that.
Those powerful Frank Kush ASU teams never scored more than 172 points in a five-year period (1969-73) against Arizona. Those Pete Carroll juggernauts at USC topped out averaging 44 points in a four-game stretch against Arizona.
Dear Mr. Football: What’s the real difference between Arizona and Oregon? The color yellow? The Swoosh?
A: It’s probably the appreciation of the Rose Bowl Game. Early this week, Oregon whiz De’Anthony Thomas told Oregon reporters the Rose Bowl “is not a big deal at all.” He said, “We’ve already won a Rose Bowl, so it feels like ‘whatever.’ ”
Thomas was born Jan. 5, 1993, at which time Arizona seemed to be a game away from the Rose Bowl forever. In ’94, Arizona went to Autzen Stadium needing to beat the Ducks to all but clinch a Rose Bowl berth.
Arizona took a 9-0 lead, sat on the ball, and lost 10-9 mostly on a regrettable pass-interference call on Mike Scurlock late in the game.
The Ducks somehow squeezed into the Rose Bowl themselves. It was the most consequential loss in Arizona football history, trumping ever-aching 1985 and 1986 title-losing games to UCLA. The Rose Bowl is no big deal?
Them’s fightin’ words in Tucson, DAT.
Dear Mr. Football: Has Arizona ever won a home game, as today, in which it was a 20-point underdog?
A: The Wildcats were 16-point home ’dogs when they beat Washington 27-22 in 2003. But that game was misleading because the Huskies were just 5-4 entering the game and Arizona had lost eight straight in the John Mackovic firing and attendant implosion.
Washington never recovered, losing 54-7 to Cal a week later and going 1-10 in 2004, firing coach Keith Gilbertson.
When Arizona shocked No. 8 Cal at Arizona Stadium in 2006, the Bears were 13-point favorites.
Dear Mr. Football: What kind of clout does Oregon have with its student fans?
A: The Ducks do not give their students primo seats; instead, 5,448 Oregon students sit in sections 4-8 at Autzen Stadium, which is essentially the north end zone and corner, with no seat beyond the 20-yard line.
By comparison, Arizona’s apathetic Zona Zoo, which has shown up in record low numbers this year, gets all the good seats, about 9,000 of them, in the lower tier of Arizona’s east grandstand.
Oregon students, seduced by winning football, also enter a digital lottery in which 1,000 of them willing to pay $360 each are awarded season tickets. Early this year, Arizona actually bribed its students, offering cash prizes of $5,000 for them just to stay until the fourth quarter. They left anyway.
Dear Mr. Football: What is the last thing you expect ABC’s Mike Patrick to say during his play-by-play delivery today?
A: “… and the Wildcats go deep, beating Ifo Ekpre-Olomu for another touchdown!”
Most people would think today’s least likely development would be for Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota to throw an interception, his first in 285 attempts this season. But that’s been done; he was intercepted by Arizona’s Jonathan McKnight last season at Autzen Stadium.
Ekpre-Olomu is the Pac-12’s latter-day Chris McAlister, a shutdown cornerback who is so good that Oregon defensive backs coach John Neal this week told Oregon reporters “Ify can do anything, anywhere, with anybody. … he’s a value asset; there’s no weaknesses.”
Those undersized Arizona freshmen receivers, Nate Phillips and Samajie Grant, who’ve caught 77 passes against other players, will be challenged just to get off the line of scrimmage and into their patterns against Mr. Ify.
Dear Mr. Football: Do you think Arizona would be any better than 6-4 if the Wildcats were coached by Oregon’s staff?
A: If Mariota played quarterback at Arizona this season, healthy and with full knowledge of Rich Rodriguez’s system, I think Arizona would be 9-1. I think Zona Zoo would be overflowing, 9,000 strong. I don’t think rain would keep Tucsonans from filling Arizona Stadium.
But when Mariota committed to play for the Ducks on June 29, 2010, choosing the Ducks over Washington, Arizona had Nick Foles and Matt Scott, and a QB-in-waiting from Texas, Daxx Garman.
Arizona was seven months removed from an epic 44-41, double-overtime loss to the Ducks, followed by a colossal sweep of Arizona State and USC. Who needed Mariota? What could possibly go wrong?
I think RichRod will beat Oregon someday soon, but not today. Ducks 51, Arizona 29.