ARIZONA FOOTBALL

UA's poll question

With 'established' QB, will Cats fare better in predictions, coach asks
2010-07-29T00:00:00Z 2010-07-29T06:44:01Z UA's poll questionRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
July 29, 2010 12:00 am  • 

PASADENA, Calif. - The Pac-10 reinvented itself this week, unveiling a new logo and website before embarking on a media blitz designed to punch the East Coast bias in the nose.

Could the rebranding of the Arizona Wildcats be next?

Don't count on it.

Despite posting back-to-back 8-5 seasons and bowl game appearances, the UA likely will be picked to finish in the middle of the conference at today's Pac-10 media day at the Rose Bowl.

Mike Stoops expects nothing less. No Stoops-coached team has ever been predicted to finish higher than sixth place.

A year ago, the Wildcats were picked eighth. They finished second.

"We beat all the teams they picked ahead of us," Stoops said. "They picked us (eighth) because we didn't have an established quarterback. Now that we have an established quarterback, we'll see if they pick us No. 1."

Don't expect it to happen, even with junior Nick Foles under center.

USC has been banned from postseason play but still figures to have the best talent in the conference. Oregon will play this season without quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, but the Ducks have a stellar supporting cast.

As many as six teams, including Arizona, can make a case for a conference crown this year. Stoops said he likes the parity.

"I don't know if there's a big difference between No. 1 and No. Whatever," Stoops said. "There's a lot of balance in this conference. It's going to be the team that sustains success over a period of time that wins it.

"We all have some unique strengths, but we all have some unique weaknesses. … There are some key pieces missing. Each team has some holes."

For once, Arizona won't be the team with image problems. Though the Wildcats will open their season Sept. 3 with four new co-coordinators, they figure to be as deep - and as talented - as any UA team in recent memory.

Regardless of what the polls say.

"Our program," Stoops said, "is here to stay."

On StarNet: Follow reporter Ryan Finley during Pac-10 media day on his blog at go.azstarnet.com/finley

ARIZONA'S RECENT POLL POSITION

The Arizona Wildcats have been picked to finish in the bottom half of the Pac-10 each year since coach Mike Stoops took over in 2004. Here's a look:

Year Predicted finish Record (finish)

2009 Eighth place 8-5 (second-place tie)

2008 Seventh place 8-5 (fifth place)

2007 Seventh place 5-7 (sixth place)

2006 Sixth place 6-6 (sixth-place tie)

2005 Eighth place 3-8 (eighth place)

2004 10th place 3-8 (eighth-place tie)

FINLEY'S PRESEASON Pac-10 Picks

1. USC. So, what if, the Trojans can't play in a bowl? They have the talent, experience and motivation to finish at the top. Again.

2. Oregon State. Who needs an experienced quarterback when you've got "fly sweep" plays and the Rodgers brothers?

3. Arizona. The Wildcats play a winnable schedule and are deep at nearly every position except linebacker. Conference-wide respect will have to come later.

4. Oregon. Coach Chip Kelly did the right thing - but cost his team a shot at another Rose Bowl - when he dismissed QB Jeremiah Masoli.

5. Cal. Bears always entice but rarely deliver. I'll pass.

6. Washington. QB Jake Locker is a Heisman candidate, but the Huskies have a long way to go.

7. Stanford. Coach Jim Harbaugh must find an offense with tailback Toby Gerhart gone.

8. UCLA. Bruins can emerge from USC's shadow while the Trojans pay their NCAA penance. But they won't.

9. ASU. Say what you want about attitude, but LB Vontaze Burfict just might be the Pac-10's best player.

10. Washington State. Cougs are likable, but nice guys finish last.

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