Going into the Arizona-Arizona State rivalry game tonight it was pretty much determined that whoever won that game would face BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl. Well it looks like we have our opponent and a familiar one at that.
Watching the second half of the "Duel in the Desert" I was thinking, wow BYU's defense would terrorize Arizona State's offensive line how bad they are. They have given up 38 sacks this season. The whole second half ASU QB Rudy Carpenter had happy feet causing him to force the issue on his passes resulting in turnovers. Jan Jorgensen and Brett Denney would have a field day on that unit. But then I thought, what if BYU played Arizona State in the LV Bowl blew them out then in '09 ASU would be gunnin' for the Cougs in the off-season when BYU heads to Tempe and we run into a buzzsaw in Max Hall's homecoming. That's not good so maybe no ammo for the Sun Devils is a positive thing.
Now we go to what looks to be our opponent, the Arizona Wildcats a team we have split meetings with in 2006 and 2007, with both meetings ending up in victories for the home team.
BYU has played well against Arizona the past two seasons but its been unproven BYU teams at the time.
In 2006, BYU was trying to find its self with John Beck at QB and looking for that big road win to jump start the program and get over the hump. Some costly turnovers and questionable Pac-10 officiating caused BYU's hopes for a big-win over a Arizona team who had a lot of Pre-Season buzz going in to a 13-16 loss in the desert.
---SIDE NOTE: The "Zona Zoo" is one of the most classless student sections you will ever find in College Football without a doubt; and Tucson looks like it is all meth'd out. Pathetic campus.
In 2007, BYU was coming off an 11-2 campaign in '06, the best season since the 14-1 '96 team. But there were a lot of question marks going in. Max Hall at QB. Harvey Unga at RB. Dennis Pitta at TE. Could the defense repeat its production in 2006? Those concerns were left with positive feelings after a blue-collar 20-7 win which should of been a shut-out had it not been for a late Arizona TD with one minute left in the ball game.
So now the rubber match on a neutral field in Las Vegas. This will be Arizona's first bowl game since the 1998 Holiday Bowl where they destroyed Nebraska en rout to a 12-1 season. Their one loss cost them a trip to the Rose Bowl. A loss to UCLA. Since then 'Zona has had four coaches; Dick Tomey, John Mackovic (who the team boycotted playing for), interim coach Mike Hankwitz and current coach Mike Stoops who has been feeling the heat in Arizona to produce wins since he got there. His program has underachieved with their talent until this season, and the success this year was due to a favorable schedule and 10 returning starters on an offense that was the best passing unit in Arizona football history in '07 led by QB Willie Tuitama and Offensive Coordinator Sonny Dykes who has put in the Texas Tech style of offense.
Arizona showed tonight they can move the football and BYU's defense better be up to the task and the Cougar secondary will get tested. Arizona WR's Mike Thomas, DeLashaun Dean and TE Rob Gronkowski and all gamechangers who break open a game with big plays.
What also hurts BYU is the fact that Arizona ended their season tonight, while BYU has already been done for two weeks. With the bowl game being on December 20th, two weeks from tonight. The Wildcats will just have a regular bye week and then the game. So BYU's defense could be rusty early on in the game which is a definite concern.
Here's some other information on the 2008 Wildcats.
- Record: 7-5 (5-4, 5th in Pac-10)
- All five of their losses came by less than 10 points. Three of those five were less than 7 points. So no one really blew this team out.
- They rank in the Top 50 in every major offensive category with their highest being Total Offense at #16 with 37 points per game.
- Lead the Pac-10 this season in yards per Punt Return with speedy Senior WR Mike Thomas manning those duties. He is getting 17.33 yards per punt.
- This is HC Mike Stoops fifth season in Tucson his overall record is 22-32. This will be his first bowl game appearance.
Should be an exciting bowl match-up if it comes to fruition. We will find out officially tomorrow night around 6 p.m. MST.