Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Newly ranked teams try to stay grounded
By Kevin Gemmell
Staying grounded seems to be the theme of the week. Teams like UCLA, Arizona and Oregon State find themselves in the national spotlight after each topped a ranked team in Week 2. And as a result, the Bruins and Wildcats find themselves in the top 25 and Oregon State is receiving votes.
Arizona checks in at No. 24 in the coaches' poll and No. 25 in the AP. It's Arizona's first appearance in the AP ranking since Nov. 22, 2010. The Wildcats spent 11 weeks in the top 25 that season and climbed as high as No. 9 before a five-game slide to close out the year knocked them out of the rankings.
UCLA is No. 23 in the coaches' poll and 22 in the AP poll. The last time the Bruins were in the AP top 25 was 2008 -- for one week -- but they were dropped out during a bye week, so the last time they actually played a game as a ranked team was Sept. 15, 2007.
So this is all relatively new to some of the fresher faces on these teams.
"It's about routine and creating a routine that carries you through times when you are having success and times when you are struggling," said UCLA head coach Jim Mora, whose team faces 0-2 Houston on Saturday. "We just focus on the routine and focus on going out and having good practices and great preparation regardless of who we're playing or what the circumstances are."
Mike Riley gets props from his boss, Oregon State AD Bob De Carolis, after his Beavers upset Wisconsin.
It's a story as old as football. A major victory is followed up by a lackluster performance against a weaker opponent. And then the questions start -- whether a team played up or down to its opponents' level. Whether it is a fluke; whether it is for real. Those are questions Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez would just as soon not answer as he prepares his team for FCS South Carolina State of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
"The way we approach every week, we talk more about the process and the daily work that we're supposed to do as opposed to the end result," Rodriguez said. "So it doesn't really matter who our opponent was. We prepare for each opponent for what they do. But we don't look at what's going to happen on Saturday until Saturday gets here. ... We call it keeping the main thing the main thing."
Mike Riley will have to wait another week for his team to get on the field. In one of the stranger starts to a college football season in recent history, his Beavers saw their season opener postponed, then they beat Wisconsin, and are now are on a bye before heading to Southern California to face UCLA next week.
"It is a strange start to the season, for sure," Riley said. "It's an early bye anyway and then with the postponement it just makes it a little bit stranger. These guys have practiced well throughout it all and we're going to try to take advantage of this week and get guys back and healthy after the first game and then get ready for UCLA and give them some time off this weekend so they don't get stale."
The consensus -- rightfully so -- among all three coaches is that nothing has been accomplished other than a few wins. And for teams that aren't used to getting this kind of national recognition, staying grounded is pivotal.
"It's two weeks in," Mora said. "I want to temper everything that I say or anything that I think. We have to realize that it's just a start and we have a ton of work to do. We're a long ways from being where we want to be."