TUCSON, Ariz. -- Mike Stoops played Oklahoma State twice in just over a year while he was Arizona's coach. The Cowboys thumped the Wildcats in the Alamo Bowl at the end of a 2010 season that started fast and finished terribly. And they thumped Stoops at the beginning of a 2011 season that started terribly and got him fired.
So Oklahoma State is a part of the reason Rich Rodriguez took over in Tucson. And he can make a statement about why he's the right guy to turn the program around by at least improving upon a pair of blowout defeats tonight in Arizona Stadium.
Heck, maybe he can even notch an upset?
The Cowboys, though ranked 18th, don't appear to be as good as the crew that rolled over the two previous versions of the Wildcats. They've lost quarterback Brandon Weeden and wide receiver Justin Blackmon and welcome back just 12 starters. Their new QB is freshman Wes Lunt, who is making his first road start and probably didn't learn much about college football in the opener against woeful Savannah State.
Arizona opened with an overtime victory over Toledo. The Wildcats piled up 624 total yards, senior QB Matt Scott played well and the dubious defense was slightly better than many feared. General sloppiness made the game close.
The Wildcats will have to clean things up to have any shot tonight.
The key for the Wildcats will be stopping the run. If the Cowboys can run -- and running back Joseph Randle is very good -- that will make things easy on Lunt. Arizona wants to force Oklahoma State to pass and hope Lunt makes rookie mistakes.
The odds, of course, are not good for the Wildcats. Arizona has lost 6 consecutive games against top-20 teams. Its last victory against a top-20 opponent came Sept. 18, 2010, against ninth-ranked Iowa. This team has plenty of talent issues, particularly its front seven on defense. And Oklahoma State is closing in on becoming one of those programs that reloads instead of rebuilds.
But Rodriguez could quickly establish why he's been brought aboard if the Wildcats post a strong performance.