The Arizona Wildcats' offensive line is an intelligent, articulate group of players with academic interests varying from regional development and education leadership to international security and German studies.
They're too smart to believe in curses.
Since the start of training camp, the Wildcats have lost three players to season- or career-ending injuries. One player has quit the team, and another three are battling ailments that will keep them out week to week.
Fortunately, the Wildcats have enough position versatility - that's football talk for "guys who can play all over" - to negate their lack of depth. Starting guard Chris Putton played left tackle at times last week, and is capable of playing on the left and right sides. Addison Bachman, who took over at center when Kyle Quinn went down with an ankle injury a week ago, can also play guard.
While you won't likely see tackles Mickey Baucus and Fabbians Ebbele moving inside anytime soon, both are trained to play both the left and right sides.
"It's crazy, actually, how versatile everybody is," Bachman said this week. "A lot of people always say that we're not tremendously big, but we're fast and we're lean, and we can all play different positions. That's big, especially when people get banged up."
Since the start of training camp, the UA has lost a half-dozen players to various injuries. Tackles Jacob Arzouman, Jack Baucus and Lene Maiava all blew out their knees. Guard Trace Biskin missed last week's game with a toe injury, and Quinn went down in the third quarter. Guard Trent Spurgeon has yet to play because of an ankle injury, and Carter Lees quit the team.
Arizona's coaches switched Jowyn Ward from defensive tackle to guard to help deal with the rash of injuries but have otherwise relied on the current players.
So far, it's proven to be a smart move.
"Everybody shows that they can play each week, and the best players get to play," Ebbele said.
"Our strengths are that we have a lot of players who can play, want to play, and step in when the time calls for them."
The last time
Wildcats kept it close for a half before Luck led a Stanford runaway
Date: Sept. 17, 2011
What went down: Andrew Luck threw for 325 yards and two touchdowns, and Stanford held Arizona scoreless in the second half on its way to a 37-10 win over the Wildcats at Arizona Stadium.
How it read: The Star's Greg Hansen said Arizona was blown out quickly, "rocket-fueling speculation that the UA's season is officially on the critical list." Hansen wrote:
"If getting rolled by Oklahoma State and buried by Stanford were Hell Week I and II, what's next?
"ESPN is scheduled to broadcast the Oregon-Arizona game here Saturday night. Is it too late to ask for replacement programming to save the Wildcats further embarrassment?
"And if you think the Wildcats felt sick this time, playing the Ducks figures to be like a barrel roll in an F-15."
Turning point: Luck hit tight end Zach Ertz for a 16-yard touchdown pass midway through the third quarter, extending Stanford's lead to 23-10. The Cardinal added a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns.
Stats that matter: Stanford's Jordan Williamson hit field goals from 20, 45 and 33 yards in the first half, staking the Cardinal to a lead. Arizona's Jaime Salazar missed two kicks. Stanford outgained the UA 567 yards to 333, and held the ball for 35 minutes and 48 seconds.
It's history: Arizona's season devolved into a 4-8 mess, while the Cardinal went 11-2 with a Fiesta Bowl appearance.
The numbers game
Changing roles force trio to switch jersey numbers
Three UA freshmen will take the field today with added responsibilities - and new numbers.
Keoni Bush-Loo will wear No. 14, while Dakota Conwell has switched to No. 24 and Wayne Capers Jr. to No. 12.
NCAA rules prohibit teammates from wearing the same jersey numbers while on the field together. The three freshmen were added to the kickoff and kickoff-return units this week, where their old numbers doubled-up with guys already on special teams. Bush-Loo wore No. 3, the same jersey number sported by returner Daniel Jenkins. Conwell's No. 23 matched up with Jared Baker, and Capers' 15 was the same as kicker John Bonano.
It's not uncommon for young players to change their jersey numbers when their positions, or their roles, change. Bush-Loo's new jersey number is his third in as many months: He wore No. 40 in training camp before switching to 3 and, eventually, to 14.
Will the Wildcats win? It's debatable
Looking for a reason to believe Arizona can upset 18th-ranked Stanford today?
We dug and dug and dug - and found exactly one.
Bear with us, Arizona.
Though the UA is 14-13 against Stanford all-time and has outscored the Cardinal by just two total points - 621 to 619 - over the years, the Wildcats have been scary-good when there's a presidency up for grabs.
The UA is 3-1 against Stanford in election years, outscoring the Cardinal by a combined 99-47. The Wildcats won 28-14 in 1984, 21-6 in 1992 and 27-3 in 2000, and lost 24-23 in 2008; the teams, shockingly, didn't play in 1980, 1988, 1996 or 2004.
OK, so Arizona's not quite as cool as USC, which has won four national championships (1928, 1932, 1972, 2004) in election years and tracks its winning percentage when Republicans (.809) and Democrats (.700) win the White House. The Trojans have played in the Rose Bowl during the term of every U.S. president except Barack Obama.
The Wildcats' success over a small sample size is better than looking at more relevant facts. Like this one: Stanford has won seven of its last nine against Arizona, and has won three of its last four versus the Wildcats at home.
And if we're talking politics, Stanford can boast a real-life president. Herbert Hoover was part of the university's first-ever class - in fact, he claimed to be the first-ever student - and was the football team's student manager for the first-ever "Big Game" between Stanford and Cal. He graduated in 1895 with a geology degree.
Stanford also claims John F. Kennedy as one of its own. He took graduate-level business classes there in 1940 before withdrawing.
Now for the weather report
UA punter keeps tabs on game-day climate
As he finalized preparations for today's game, Kyle Dugandzic checked the weather reports.
For a punter - and Dugandzic is one of the nation's best - a little wind can make a big difference. Dugandzic checks forecasts before the team leaves for road trips, then constantly monitors the weather and wind once he arrives.
His Stanford Stadium scouting report: "I know it'll be a little bit windy in Northern California this time of year. Hopefully, we won't have swirling winds."
The Star talked to Dugandzic, the reigning Pac-12 special teams player of the week, about what he looks for when preparing. Here's what Dugandzic said, in his own words:
"I kind of just mentally prepare myself for what it's going to feel like, what the ball's going to feel like. In colder weather, the ball can feel like a rock. Hopefully, we can have a light breeze and a warm day.
"Last year, the toughest place to kick was Colorado. That's because we had that 75 mph wind to deal with. Washington wasn't that much fun either - it was a little cold. I think Utah might be a little tough this year since it'll be the end of November. There might be snow."
Arizona at Stanford • Noon • Ch 11 • 1290-AM, 107.5-FM
Game-day breakdown by Ryan Finley
Arizona vs. Stanford by the numbers
Stanford's ranking in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll.
Number of times, in six games this season, that the Arizona Wildcats will face the nation's 18th-ranked team.
Arizona's record in their first two games against No. 18 teams - Oklahoma State and Oregon State.
Arizona's all-time record against teams ranked No. 18.
kyle can kick
Length, in yards, of Kyle Dugandzic's career-long punt a week ago.
Dugandzic's average yards per punt this season. He has punted 19 times for 853 yards.
Dugandzic's national ranking in yards per punt. Among Pac-12 kickers, only Utah's Sean Sellwood (47.83 yards per punt) and Arizona State's Josh Hubner (45.3) are better.