The Arizona Wildcats will open their season Friday determined to snap a streak that has long haunted the program.
What, you were thinking about the Rose Bowl? Too soon.
For now, focus on road trips - and unfamiliar foes.
Arizona hasn't won a nonconference road game since Aug. 30, 2001 - John Mackovic's first game as the Wildcats coach. The UA, bolstered by quarterback Jason Johnson's performance, rolled San Diego State 23-10 at Qualcomm Stadium.
Since then, the Cats have gone 0-7 in nonconference road games, losing by a combined score of 245-96.
Not that coach Mike Stoops makes anything of the Wildcats' recent streak of futility. Come to think of it, what Arizona coach worth his whistle would?
"That's just circumstantial, to be honest with you," he said.
Maybe Stoops has a point.
1. How hard it is to win on the road. There's nothing tougher in football, players and coaches agree, than traveling to another team's stadium looking for a win.
Take Friday's opponent, Toledo.
Toledo has dispatched Minnesota, Navy, Cincinnati, Pitt, Kansas and Colorado in the Glass Bowl this decade. It's not like the Rockets have been world-beaters, either; they've cycled through three coaches - Gary Pinkel, Tom Amstutz and Tim Beckman - despite their home successes.
"We've been very fortunate in winning many games against BCS-caliber football teams," Beckman said. "We understand we can play with these people, but we've got to do the things necessary to win."
2. The teams the Wildcats have played. Three of Arizona's seven straight nonconference losses came against teams ranked in the Top 25 nationally. LSU was ranked No. 8 when it rolled Arizona in 2006, nearly ending quarterback Willie Tuitama's career in the process. The Tigers ended their season by playing in the Sugar Bowl. Similarly, Iowa used a nonconference game against Arizona to launch its BCS aspirations. The Hawkeyes finished 11-2 a year ago, winning the Orange Bowl.
3. Arizona's willingness to "play up," and play fair. While Arizona will always be connected to its Mountain West Conference and WAC cousins, it's been the Wildcats' willingness to play "home-and-home" series against far-off teams that will be Mike Stoops' legacy. The Wildcats will take on Iowa this year as part of the back end of their two-game series. When the Wildcats arrive in Toledo this week, they'll become the first Pac-10 team to ever play at a MAC school during the regular season. The Wildcats will travel to Oklahoma State next season, with the Cowboys' return trip scheduled for 2012.
By then, maybe Arizona will have a new streak going - and a bad one snapped.
"It's kind of a scary game," Stoops said of the Rockets. "They have nothing to lose in this game."
The Arizona Wildcats haven't won a nonconference road game since Aug. 30, 2001 - John Mackovic's first game as Arizona's coach. Here's what happened since:
Date - Stadium - Location - Result
Sept. 14, 2002 Camp Randall Stadium Madison, Wis. No. 22 Wisconsin 31, Arizona 10
Sept. 20, 2003 Ross-Ade Stadium West Lafayette, Ind. No. 25 Purdue 59, Arizona 7
Sept. 2, 2005 Rice-Eccles Stadium Salt Lake City Utah 27, Arizona 24
Sept. 9, 2006 Memorial Stadium Baton Rouge, La. No. 8 LSU 45, Arizona 3
Sept. 1, 2007 LaVell Edwards Stadium Provo, Utah BYU 20, Arizona 7
Sept. 13, 2008 University Stadium Albuquerque New Mexico 36, Arizona 28
Sept. 19, 2009 Kinnick Stadium Iowa City, Iowa Iowa 27, Arizona 17