The Arizona Wildcats waited 11 years for such national attention to again grace their program.

Maybe one extra week to think about it was too much, Mike Stoops wondered aloud following Saturday night's loss to Oregon State.

"I don't know if we just lost our edge and took things for granted or what," he said.

The Wildcats' position wasn't familiar, but their opponent was.

That was the difference.

Welcome to conference play, Wildcats fans. Need an ice pack yet?

It's no coincidence Cal and Oregon State played the Wildcats tougher than then-No. 9 Iowa did.

After never trailing through their first three games, the UA has led for a combined 1 minute 11 seconds in Pac-10 play.

Across the nation Saturday, four of the top 14 teams lost to league foes.

There's no shame in any of it.

Like annoying little brothers or nosy mothers-in-law, conference teams know you - and how to best you - better.

UA quarterback Nick Foles imagines every game will be close deep into the fourth quarter.

"I think toward the end of the game, teams will pull away - if they do" at all, Foles said.

Don't count on it.

Thus far in Pac-10 play - four teams have played twice, six three times - the league seems to be as even as ever. Consider:

• Every team but one - the Wildcats' Saturday opponent, Washington State - has won at least one conference game.

• Six teams - including the Beavers, Oregon Ducks and Arizona State Sun Devils, who all picked up away wins Saturday - have won a conference road game.

• In the 13 league games played this year, the home team has won only six times.

No one's safe.

Arizona State won its first league game in Seattle, against a Huskies squad that picked up its first league victory the week before at USC.

The Trojans, eliminated from Rose Bowl contention by NCAA decree, were probably erased from the Pac-10 title hunt with their second league loss Saturday. And they haven't played Oregon yet.

Stanford has swept Los Angeles, and the Beavers chewed through both Arizona teams.

Still, Stoops said: "I don't know that there's anybody that I think really sets themselves apart from any particular team."

It's nothing new.

In 2009, Pac-10 home teams won 60 percent in league play, or 27 of 45 games. Washington and Washington State, however, accounted for half the league's 18 road losses.

And the Cougars, who have won one Pac-10 game since their final contest of the 2007 season, are at least making teams squirm again. WSU trailed Oregon by five in the second quarter and 13 in the third Saturday.

"People will make a mistake to go play Wazzu and not be playing their best," said Dick Tomey, who coached 113 Pac-10 games at Arizona. "Wazzu will get an upset before the year's over, if not two.

"Mike's team will bounce back. But it's hard. Everybody is good. And everybody can beat ya.

"That's the part of college football that's wonderful. There are no guarantees."

Parity looks far less stressful in retirement.

For UA co-defensive coordinator Greg Brown, it's a bit scary. Asked about WSU quarterback Jeff Tuel, he shook his head.

"I'm sure he'll be looking at our film," Brown said, "and champing at the bit to get to us."

Brown calls the Pac-10 "the most innovative league on offense that I've seen."

Tomey said the Pac-10 doesn't have one dominant team - I say it's Oregon - but might be the best league in the country.

"I would suspect all the conference games are going to be like this," Tomey said.

That's the most consoling, and also maddening, part about Saturday's UA loss.

A home win and 2-0 league start would have meant the world in a jumbled league. But a loss, even at home, can be forgiven.

For better of worse, it's a long season.

"We knew that," Stoops said. "But I think we let a good opportunity slip through our hands."



1Ready for college hoops to start? On Friday, ESPNU will spend four hours televising "Midnight Madness" events signifying the start of men's basketball practice. Cameras will visit UConn, Duke, Gonzaga, Kentucky, Memphis and Kansas State.

BCS standings

2The first edition of the Bowl Championship Series standings will be revealed Sunday night. The standings use statistics from the Harris poll, which this weekend placed Arizona at No. 21, in its formula.

Running uphill

3The folks who came up with the Mount Lemmon Marathon and Half-Marathon are either geniuses or crazy. We can't decide. Sunday's race takes a runner up 6,000 feet, starting at 6 a.m. Runners aren't allowed to wear headphones in case of rock falls.

Welcome home

4After playing their first two regular-season games in Prague, the Coyotes return to Phoenix for their home opener Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings. Phoenix set a franchise record with 50 regular-season wins last year before losing to Detroit in the Western Conference quarterfinals.


5The Arizona Wildcats are winners of four straight, including Saturday's 3-2 win at No. 13 Oregon, and return to McKale Center on Friday to host UCLA. Dave Rubio's team plays USC the next day; both Los Angeles schools are ranked in the top 15.

Patrick Finley