BOULDER, Colo. — Dear Mr. Football: Is Arizona ever going to be a Pac-12 football pace-setter?
A: Let’s see: Washington launched the facilities race, Oregon was first in presentation, and after 33 seasons as a sleepy afterthought, Arizona is about to revolutionize the way its players sleep.
The Wildcats have hired national sleep experts to monitor how much sleep each player gets and why. “We’re really looking into and trying to preach to our guys the benefits of sleep,” coach Rich Rodriguez said.
Arizona is borrowing the sleep-study idea from Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, whose players have worn sensors to analyze the quantity and quality of sleep this season. NU even reported that its seniors averaged 9 hours 19 minutes per night; freshmen 7 hours 20 minutes.
Northwestern now regularly schedules team naps.
Can this be the final frontier of changes in college football? Sleep? Could it be the link to Arizona’s first Rose Bowl game? Is it more important than the color of your helmet?
“It’s absolutely critical,” said RichRod.
Alas, Northwestern has lost three straight games.
Dear Mr. Football: Would Colorado QB Sefo Liufua be the first true freshman QB ever to beat Arizona?
A: UCLA’s Cade McNown beat Arizona 17-10 in 1995, a true freshman, although use of the word “beat” is not exactly accurate.
Starting his third career game, McNown was 3 for 18 in the first half of that ’95 game and was replaced by Ryan Lien, who later re-lost the job to McNown and transferred to Idaho.
Not even Stanford’s John Elway started against Arizona as a true freshmen in 1979; he backed up Turk Schonert.
Arizona’s last notable loss to a freshman QB was Arizona State’s Rudy Carpenter, 23-20, in 2005. But Carpenter had redshirted in 2004. On this weekend last season, Liufua was playing against Gig Harbor (Wash.) High School.
But then Arizona starting linebacker Scooby Wright was playing against Northern California’s Rancho Cotate High School on this October weekend in 2012.
Dear Mr. Football: Does CU coach Mike McIntyre come from the Dick Tomey coaching tree?
A: Part of Tomey’s original 1987 Arizona staff included Dave Fagg, who left to become Davidson’s head coach two years later. By 1992, on the ropes, Fagg hired the 27-year-old McIntyre to be his defensive coordinator.
Not that it went well. Fagg was fired and McIntyre lost his first full-time coaching job; it took him a decade to get his career in order, coaching at Tennessee-Martin and Temple.
This isn’t to suggest that McIntyre struggled as a young coach, but his Davidson team lost 36-7 to Emory and Henry, and 27-12 to Washington and Lee. Presto, 20 years later he became a million-dollar-a-year coach at Colorado.
Dear Mr. Football: Has Shaq Richardson played at Arizona forever?
A: Richardson is getting his 30th start at cornerback tonight, more or less a four-year starter whose playing time can be matched or exceeded only by a handful of ex-Wildcats corners, including All-American Antoine Cason.
Shaq mostly gets criticism because he plays a high profile position against marquee receivers, always under fire. I give him a lot of credit for working at it; he attended Shutdown U (yes, there is such a thing) in Phoenix over the offseason, a training camp that ex-UA defensive backs Cam Nelson and Robert Golden attended.
Shaq isn’t likely to be the best Richardson on the field today. CU’s top player is surely his cousin, junior receiver Paul Richardson. How good is Paul? He caught 11 passes for 284 yards and two TDs against Cal two years ago.
It’s possible that the Shaq-Paul legacy will be continued soon in the Pac-12. Paul’s twin brothers, Dymund and De-Jon, both 6 feet 3 inches and 185 pounds, are standout players at Inglewood (Calif.) High School.
Dear Mr. Football: Is the Pac-12’s biggest coaching feud UW’s Steve Sarkisian vs. Stanford’s David Shaw, or Oregon’s Nick Aliotti vs. Wazzu’s Mike Leach?
A: I’d put the RichRod vs. Todd “Sparky” Graham on top of that list, but that’s a story for another day.
Yet after I watched Utah coach Kyle Whittingham give RichRod an icy, blow-by handshake after last week’s game, I’d bet those two will not arrange an offseason golf outing together.
What I like about last week’s Aliotti vs. Leach dust-up is that it gives the Pac-12 some personality, something that even SEC people noticed. RichRod vs. Graham, if given time, could grow to a national stage. That’d be good. ASU hasn’t had a really unlikable coach since Frank Kush.
Two biggest coaching feuds in modern conference history? It’s a tie: USC’s John McKay vs. his nemesis, Stanford’s John Ralston, and the Trojans’ Pete Carroll vs. Stanford’s Jim Harbaugh.
Dear Mr. Football: Would Arizona be wise to do what Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz suggested after an implosion of the Hawkeyes’ punt return teams, and not allow anyone to return a punt?
A: The UA has had such difficulty on its punt return game that RichRod said, “We replaced Nate with Johnny and Johnny with Nate.” He has juggled young receivers Johnny Jackson and Nate Phillips. Both have had their adventures.
Yet Colorado is the league’s least productive punt return team, with a mere 43 total yards. How bad is that? Arizona’s school-record low for season punt return yards is 79, set in Mike Stoops final season, 2011.
Dear Mr. Football: Is Ka’Deem Carey Arizona’s most impressive statistical producer?
A: I honor, admire and all but worship Carey’s ability to lead the nation in rushing for a second consecutive year. I also worry that, like a baseball pitcher piling up the innings, Carey’s durability has limits.
But I still think quarterback B.J. Denker has the most impressive statistic at Arizona this season: two interceptions. That’s two in 164 throws.
Denker entered the season with troubling mechanics, failing to plant his feet before he threw, throwing into crowds, you name it. He has proved to be a quick study.
“In our system, a quarterback has to make a decision on just about every snap,” said Rodriguez. “He may have 80 plays and he’s made the right decision on about 75 of them. Most people don’t even know that.
“He’s the sharpest guy we’ve got in the room as far as doing that.”
Denker’s evolution from a beginner to a winner and Carey’s presence and production have changed the 2013 Wildcats from mystery team to one, as RichRod said to his squad after beating Utah, “When we put it all together, we’re pretty good.”
Arizona doesn’t have to be “pretty good” to beat Colorado. If it learned anything from Utah’s post-Stanford letdown, it should play with fire tonight. Arizona 41, Colorado 27.