I really don’t know what to say about the University of Arizona football and basketball teams here. The last five days have been a disaster of epic proportions. So much so that I have to use TWO downs to fully explain the implications of this nightmare.
I also can’t believe what the heck happened with ASU and Todd Graham so I’ll dedicate this entire column to college sports matters…and unfortunately I won’t even get to the CFB coaching carousel which was spinning out of control on Sunday.
To hear more thoughts on these topics and more including the Cardinals big win on Sunday, tune in to The Daily Blender with Charles Wulf and I on Monday from 1-3pm!
FIRST DOWN: Arizona basketball goes from #2 to unranked in a span of three days in the Bahamas…now what?
Losing to a lousy NC State team on Wednesday night was pretty awful. Then losing to a mediocre SMU team on Thanksgiving was nightmarish. But losing by 26 to Purdue on Friday was an outright unmitigated disaster. It’s clear that something in the UofA basketball program is severely broken…and I’m not sure if it’s fixable right now.
Is the FBI investigation into recently deposed assistant coach Book Richardson causing distractions? Is Sean Miller experiencing personal troubles (a divorce is the rumor I’ve heard) which may be distracting his mind off basketball. Or maybe the team just isn’t nearly as good as most pundits and fans expected?
In my opinion, it’s hard to count out any of the three reasons.
But really good teams just don’t lose three games in three days to unranked teams.
DeAndre Ayton is really, really good. Allonzo Trier is as well but he’s too selfish and tries to play ‘hero ball’ much too often. Aside from that, this team REALLY misses sophomore forward Rawle Alkins, who may be ready within the next week or two upon recovering from a broken foot.
Sorry to say…but Arizona’s chances at a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament are all but over. If they win the Pac-12, and it’s a big if at this point, I’d say a 3 seed might be the best case scenario. But unfortunately I predict the losses will be far more than any Wildcat fan expected a month ago. A double-digit loss season is in play and a trip to the ‘The Big Dance’ can no longer be considered a guarantee.
Mind you I also was down on my Chicago Cubs going into the All-Star Break, declared their season hopeless, and they ended up in the National League Championship Series…so there’s hope fellow UofA fans.
Here’s to hoping that what happened in the Bahamas stays in the Bahamas…and Coach Miller can right the ship. Otherwise the gloating from ASU fans about their 6-0 start this season may get louder and louder as conference play approaches.
SECOND DOWN: Territorial Cup 2017 – what a 2nd half debacle for the Wildcats!
Arizona led 24-14 with a minute to go in the first half and had the ball near midfield after an interception. With multiple timeouts remaining, coach Rich Rodriguez ran the ball up the middle repeatedly before letting QB Khalil Tate throw a Hail Mary of sorts to a short WR, Shun Brown. On the play Tate was whacked by ASU’s defensive line and appeared to be worse for the wear after the fact.
Instead of putting his foot on the pedal, RichRod took the conservative approach and settled for a 10 point halftime lead. When Tate didn’t start the 3rd quarter, Arizona went three and out with backup QB Brandon Dawkins.
Honest to God, I’ve never seen a more horrendous punting unit in organized football than Arizona’s this season. A dropped snap led to a blocked punt and an easy Sun Devils TD. Then Dawkins, who I trashed earlier this season, threw a terrible interception to set up another easy ASU TD.
Somehow Arizona managed to erase a 35-24 deficit and appear to take the lead after an incredible punt return by Brown. Yet that play was called back due to a suspicious block in the back, which as seen below, doesn’t appear to be a foul. It was an egregious call by the referees and pretty much sealed Arizona’s fate as the loser of this year’s rivalry game.
So how do I feel about things you ask? Honestly I’m pissed. I’m angry that Khalil Tate got hurt because Arizona was much the better team with him in the game.
Do I think the Wildcats win if Tate would’ve stayed healthy? Yes.
Am I angry that Rodriguez’s conservatism likely cost Arizona throughout the game? Yes.
Do I think that RichRod should lose his job over this loss? Absolutely not.
Beating your rival on the road is always difficult. But doing so with a backup QB in the game, especially one that’s turnover prone…good luck.
In my opinion, the Wildcats have the talent returning + a friendly schedule which should put them right up there with USC (assuming QB Sam Darnold heads to the NFL–otherwise USC is much the best) as co-favorites in the Pac-12 South. Any less than a 9 win regular season as it stands now would be a major disappointment for Arizona in 2018.
This will be Rich Rodriguez’s best team at Arizona. Hopefully the pain we fans have felt this weekend will be erased next Fall. For now, bring on the bowl game in December.
THIRD DOWN: ASU’s decision to fire coach Todd Graham is…IDIOTIC
Reason #1 why ASU should’ve kept Graham around for at least another season. Where’s this buyout money coming from?
UPDATE: Todd Graham’s buyout is $12.3 million that is his, won’t be offset by any new job, per @ByBerkowitz. Incredibly irresponsible deal.
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) November 26, 2017
Now the press conference showed me, although he’s a nice guy, that ASU Athletic Director Ray Anderson appears to be an egomaniac.
Anderson said he expects ASU to be a Top 3 team in the Pac-12 every season.
He said he doesn’t understand why people are OK with reaching lower-level bowls.
— Doug Haller (@DougHaller) November 26, 2017
So basically when his new hire can’t deliver this consistently, either Anderson is going to need to keep cycling through coaches or his tenure as AD will be short.
Anderson: 7-5 and second in the Pac-12 South … is not good enough. We don’t want to play in second-tier bowls.
— Doug Haller (@DougHaller) November 26, 2017
Did you see ASU’s schedule this year? It was BRUTAL. From Graham to win 7 games was seriously impressive in my mind…and I’m FAR from a TG supporter.
Anderson called people who believe the program’s expectations are too high “misguided” and are “living in the past.”
— Matthew Tonis (@Tonis_The_Tiger) November 26, 2017
Wait…what? What planet is this guy living on? When’s the last time ASU played in a consequential bowl game, Ray? 1/1/97 in the Rose Bowl. ASU’s football tradition appears to me in the eye of the beholder. The days of Frank Kush are gone. The days of Bruce Snyder, Jake Plummer, and Pat Tillman are gone. ASU football has been mostly irrelevant for years. And I’m not saying this as a biased UofA guy. While I appreciate Anderson’s optimism for the program, I pity the next football guy who comes in and has to live up to these expectations.
And for what it’s worth, I think Kevin Sumlin, formerly of Texas A&M gets the job. But if it was me making the hire, I’d go straight for ex-ASU OC and current Memphis coach, Mike Norvell.
FOURTH DOWN: #1 Alabama and #2 Miami lose on rivalry weekend…are their playoff hopes doomed?
The answer to both is no…but Alabama’s path especially got much trickier after losing to Auburn on Saturday.
Here’s how this will all play out next weekend:
SEC Championship Game: The winner of Auburn-Georgia will be in the Final Four. The loser is out.
ACC Championship Game: The winner of Clemson and Miami will be in the playoff…the loser will not be obviously.
Big XII Championship Game: If Oklahoma beats TCU, they’re 1000% in. If TCU beats Oklahoma, both teams are out. The Horned Frogs just don’t appear, as a potential two loss conference champion, to have the resume to surpass a one-loss Alabama team.
Pac-12 Championship Game: The USC-Stanford rematch has no bearing on the playoff. The winner will be in the Fiesta Bowl and the loser likely ends up in the Alamo or Holiday bowls.
Big 10 Championship Game: If Wisconsin beats Ohio State and gets to 13-0, obviously they’ll be in the playoff. If the Buckeyes win, things get complicated. Similar to TCU’s case, does a two-loss OSU team belong over the one-loss Crimson Tide?
In my opinion, Alabama needs to seriously root for TCU to upset Oklahoma. Otherwise their only hope of making it in is for an Ohio State squeaker over Wisconsin and the committee to choose the Tide over the Buckeyes.
My doomsday scenario from last week might very well have played out similarly to the way I expected. Prepare for serious discussions this offseason of a 6 or 8 team playoff in the near future.