Arizona, Oregon State both desperate

October, 7, 2011
10/07/11
4:31
PM ET
Whether the glass is half-empty (Arizona) or half-full (Oregon State), neither program is getting its thirst for success quenched.

Half-empty at Arizona? For one, the Wildcats are good on offense but terrible on defense, ranking among the worst in the nation in most categories. They can't stop the run or pass. And emotional, straight-talking coach Mike Stoops isn't one to sugarcoat his assessments.

"We're just not doing anything very well at this point," he said. "Our inability to be good anywhere right now is really ... tackling has been poor, pass rush has been poor, just haven't played very well in any capacity. Effort -- all of that has been poor."

We'd note that Stoops seems like he could use a hug, but such a gesture might be risky. So feel empathy from a distance.

Then there's always-upbeat Oregon State coach Mike Riley. Sure, his team is winless -- Stoops and the Wildcats at least opened with a victory over Northern Arizona -- but he still sees cheer in a handful of busts.

"I think there is a lot of disappointment but I am encouraged by the work ethic," Riley said. "And as important, the motivation, the enthusiasm for the work is good. We've got a lot of young guys and there is growth and I think they can feel that."

Riley's the sort who produces marshmallows and a slap on the back as you watch your house burn to the ground.

Arizona has lost nine consecutive games to FBS foes. Oregon State has lost six in a row. But one team will be forced, no matter how hard it tries to screw it up, to win Saturday in Corvallis. The other, of course, will start to earnestly feel the burning sensation of a season in flames. And both of these coaches, who seemed as secure as any in the Pac-12 in the preseason, could be forced to endure hot-seat talk.

There's no need to recite the numbers -- you can seek out exotic ways to flesh out these teams' shortcomings here -- but if one team has slightly more hope, it might be the Wildcats.

While the Beavers opened with a loss to FCS team Sacramento State and lost at home to UCLA, the Wildcats have lost to the Nos. 6 (Oklahoma State), 7 (Stanford) and 9 (Oregon) teams in the country before losing at 4-1 USC by seven points last weekend -- a 48-41 barnburner in which the Wildcats showed spine by coming back from a 34-12 third-quarter deficit.

The Wildcats also showed signs of a running game, rushing for 129 yards against the Trojans. If QB Nick Foles gets just a bit of help from a run threat keeping defenses honest, the Wildcats could outscore foes the rest of the season, while the schedule's degree of difficulty trends down.

And then defensive reinforcements arrive when safety Adam Hall and linebacker Jake Fischer return from preseason knee injuries over the next couple of weeks.

The Beavers also have hope, though glancing at the schedule might not inspire it. They showed some pluck at Arizona State, and redshirt freshman QB Sean Mannion has flashed ability. Further, the Beavers won at Arizona last year.

Bottom line: Somebody will walk away smiling on Saturday.

Well, it's not certain that Stoops will smile if he wins, or that Riley won't even if he loses. But you know what we mean.

Ted Miller | email

College Football

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