Viewed as a whole, the Arizona Wildcats' next month is overwhelming - a quadruple-team of talented opponents and hostile road environments.
Coach Mike Stoops chooses to think in one-week chunks. If the 13th-ranked Wildcats can't defeat No. 10 Stanford on Saturday, their upcoming games against USC, No. 1 Oregon and rival Arizona State won't mean as much.
"You do what you've got to do this week. It's senseless to look at anything but where we're at right now," Stoops said Monday. "I don't look at it as a hard month. Shoot, there haven't been many easy ones."
Maybe. But the Wildcats haven't faced two top-10 teams within a month of each other since 2007, when they lost to No.8 Cal on Sept.22 and No.10 USC on Oct. 13. The UA has faced two or more top-10 teams in the same season just 15 times since joining the Pac-10 in 1978.
This year's gauntlet may top them all.
Oregon is the nation's top team and the prohibitive favorite to play in the BCS national championship game. Stanford boasts arguably the nation's best NFL prospect at quarterback, Andrew Luck. USC is still reaping the rewards of Pete Carroll-era recruiting classes, and Arizona State is, well, Arizona State.
Combined, the teams are 24-8 this season; the Sun Devils (4-4) are responsible for half the group's losses.
Not that Arizona's looking too far ahead. Co-defensive coordinator Greg Brown said Monday that "there's no looking back, no looking forward" heading into each game.
"We're on this week hot-and-heavy with our guys," he said. "And the thing about our guys is, they're buying into it."
For now, linebacker Paul Vassallo said he is excited to be playing with such high stakes.
Arizona (7-1, 4-1) is off to its best start since 1998, when the team went to the Holiday Bowl and finished the season ranked No. 3 nationally.
Now, the Wildcats are four wins from their first-ever Rose Bowl.
"As the year's progressed, we knew that down the stretch we're going to have a lot of tough games," Vassallo said. "Here we are. We're in a very good position to win the Pac-10."
Foles still on track
Stoops reiterated Monday that quarterback Nick Foles "will be a firm option for us" against Stanford despite missing the last two games while recovering from a dislocated right kneecap.
"If Nick's healthy enough to play and practice and do the things necessary, he'll start," Stoops said.
Matt Scott started Arizona's wins over Washington and UCLA, throwing for 552 total yards and rushing for 136. Foles threw for 1,600 yards and nine touchdowns before going down in the second quarter of Arizona's Oct. 16 win over Washington State.
Neither quarterback was made available to the media after Monday's practice.
Tailback Nicolas Grigsby (sprained right ankle) and nose tackle Justin Washington (sprained right knee), and the rest of Arizona's banged up regulars, are all expected to play.
"I imagine everybody being healthy for Saturday," Stoops said.
Fischer gets Pac-10 honor for fake punt heroics
Sophomore Jake Fischer was named the Pac-10's special teams player of the week on Monday for his role in a fake punt against UCLA. Oregon wide receiver Jeff Maehl was named the offensive player of the week, and Arizona State defensive end Junior Onyeali earned defensive honors.
Playing the personal protector's role on a fourth-quarter punt, Fischer caught the snap and rushed 29 yards into UCLA territory. Although Arizona did not score on the drive, it ran off two minutes and eventually pinned UCLA at its 20. Arizona held on to win the game 29-21.
The award is the first for Fischer, a 5-foot-11-inch, 220-pound graduate of Ironwood Ridge High School. Fischer starts as the Wildcats "Sam," or strong-side, linebacker.
• Arizona's coaches were still bothered Monday by the two long touchdowns that allowed UCLA to get back into the game. Quarterback Richard Brehaut hit Randall Carroll for a 68-yard score just after halftime, then found Josh Smith on a 48-yard flea-flicker on the second play of the fourth quarter.
Both times, Arizona's safeties were out of position.
"They were unearned runs," Brown said. "They were on us."
• Center Colin Baxter has started 45 straight games, the longest streak among position players in the Pac-10. Baxter says it's "not a big thing to me."
"It's coming to work every Saturday, and coming to work every day" in practice, he said.
• ABC's Brent Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit and Erin Andrews will call Saturday's game. The broadcast will be shown in 75percent of the nation's homes, according to the network. The trio called Oregon's win over USC last week.
A November - and December - to remember
The Arizona Wildcats' next 32 days will be the toughest of their season. Here's a look at the UA's next four opponents, how they're doing and why it matters:
Date Opponent Overall Pac-10 Best win in 2010
Saturday at No. 10 Stanford 7-1 4-1 Defeated Notre Dame 37-14 on Sept. 25
• Why it matters: Cardinal, like, Arizona, has one conference loss. The winner stays in the Rose Bowl hunt.
Nov. 13 vs. USC 5-3 2-3 Defeated Cal 48-14 on Oct. 16
• Why it matters: Even in a down year, Trojans have enough talent to beat anybody. Oh, and they've won seven of their last eight against Arizona.
Nov. 26 at No. 1 Oregon 8-0 5-0 Defeated Stanford 52-31 on Oct. 2
• Why it matters: Ducks boast the nation's top offense, a frenetic attack that has exhausted every team it has faced.
Dec. 2 vs. Arizona State 4-4 2-3 Defeated Washington 24-14 on Oct. 9
• Why it matters: In-state rivals have exceeded modest expectations this year. Devils will likely be playing for a bowl game.
• What: Arizona at Stanford
• When: 5 p.m. Saturday
• TV: Channel 9
• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM