Dear Mr. Football: Has Oregon State played the all-time, all-brutal, non-conference schedule in Pac-10 history?
A: The TCU-Boise State tandem in the same month is like playing vintage Gonzaga and Butler basketball teams on the same road trip. But beating 2-2 Louisville, at home, scuttles the theory of best-ever, or even "best this decade."
In 2002, USC played 10-2 Kansas State, 10-2 Colorado and 10-2 Notre Dame. Here's another: In 1991, Arizona played No. 2 Ohio State and No. 2 Miami (both were game-time rankings).
The real debate-crusher: In 1983, Terry Donahue's UCLA Rose Bowl team played 12-1 Nebraska, 11-1 BYU and 10-1-1 Georgia. All finished the year in the top seven in the AP poll.
Dear Mr. Football: Does Arizona plan a gala celebration for its 1,000th game today?
A: The NCAA database initially listed the UA-Oregon State game as the 9,998th in school history. Then UA media relations director Tom Duddleston did some math (counting with fingers, toes and a dog-eared media guide) and discovered that the 1,000th game was actually last month's victory over Cal.
Someone 40 or 50 years ago erroneously entered - or did not enter - a 1955 tie game against West Texas State onto coach Warren Woodson's career log.
Alas, there will be no commemoration of the first 1,000 games today. Said Duddleston: "Maybe the theme for the game should be '1,001, a Spaced-Out Odyssey.'"
Dear Mr. Football: Is it true that the most enduring quote of the Dick Tomey years was something about a punt?
A: Tomey's "you've got to preserve your right to punt" line has gotten more mileage than Bernard Lagat's training calendar, but the most telling thing Tomey said in his 14 years at Arizona might have been, "We're never going to get new facilities unless we start to lose."
How, ironic, then, that Tomey will be introduced at Arizona Stadium tonight, standing in the end zone, a few yards from the long-overdue, $85 million North End Project. The Wildcats lost so often for so many years, that the catch-up construction will soon begin. Prophetic, huh?
In the 10 years since Tomey departed Arizona (at which time the UA trailed only Wazzu and Cal in Pac-10 football facilities), the Wildcats threw together some nickels and dimes to upgrade offices, locker and meeting rooms, their practice field, the weight room and team room facilities at Arizona Stadium - and actually lost ground in the facilities race. In conjunction with the Oregonian newspaper, Oregon State cornerback James Dockery this week acted as a tour guide at OSU's uber-cushy players' lounge. It was La-Z-Boy heaven. "Kinda ridiculous," said Dockery. "I haven't been to Oregon, but I know they have a lot of stuff, too."
Lots and lots of stuff. Arizona: not so much stuff.
Dear Mr. Football: Has Mike Stoops' reputation as a sideline bedlamite reached the other Pac-10 precincts?
A: Oregon's Chip Kelly became so animated (lip readers had to close their eyes) in last week's win over Stanford, that Eugene Register-Guard columnist George Schroeder wrote, "Kelly was spitting mad, about to come unglued, on the verge of going all Mike Stoops on the officials."
A few days later, Bud Withers of the Seattle Times suggested that during Arizona's bye week, "Stoops practiced bouncing off walls."
It's unfortunate that Stoops' reputation for histrionics now precedes the work he has done to turn Arizona into a winner. Stoops is probably the best defensive mind/coach in the Pac-10 - and the best the league has had since Rich Ellerson left Arizona 10 years ago.
Dear Mr. Football: Why is OSU defensive coordinator Mark Banker so happy that the Versus channel is televising today's game?
A: After the Beavers play four TV games each season, Banker gets a $10,000 bonus for every additional broadcast. Not a living soul in college football can say Banker hasn't earned it.
From 1981 to 1994, he coached in football purgatory (Cal State-Northridge). Finally, after 14 years, he was fired in the wake of a turbulent season in which the CSUN student body voted not to fund a $2 million subsidy for the football program (which died six years later). Banker's players were so steamed that they took the Matador logo off their helmets in protest - and lost 60-7 to NAU anyway.
He then got a job on former UA assistant coach Bob Wagner's ill-fated 1995 team at Hawaii. Everyone got fired there, too. Finally, in 1996, at 44, Banker got the break of a lifetime, getting a graduate assistant's job for a fading USC program whose offensive coordinator was soon-to-be OSU head coach Mike Riley. Right place, right time.
Dear Mr. Football: Is OSU tailback Jacquizz Rodgers the Pac-10's equivalent of Hank Aaron?
A: Aaron completed his career as baseball's home run king (755), but he never had a prodigous season, never hit 50 in a season. Rodgers, a junior, is working toward the unlikely statistic of being the Pac-10's career rushing leader - the only player ever to rush for 1,000 yards in four different seasons - without ever leading the league in rushing. In his first two years, Rodgers finished behind Toby Gerhart and Jahvid Best.
The Quizz is a distant No.5 in Pac-10 rushing this year (398), but his career total (3,091) is reasonably within range of Charles White's 6,245 yards at USC.
Dear Mr. Football: How come everybody seems to say that OSU coach Mike Riley is underrated? Isn't that stuff overrated?
A: Riley gets style points because he is so accommodating, accessible and the Nicest Guy in College Football. He's Russ Pennell without the beard. The Beavers are chronically undersold because the school was so bad from 1975 to 1995 and because Reser Stadium isn't down the street from the Space Needle or Sunset Strip.
Since 2002, OSU has had 33 first-team All-Pac-10 players. Only USC (59) and Cal (35) have had more. Arizona? Fifteen. The Beavers should have been good. They are good. It's no longer a novelty.
That's why they'll be able to beat the Wildcats in a tight finish today. OSU 31, Arizona 27.