The good news for Arizona fans: Since they joined the Pac-10 in 1978, the Wildcats have won their fourth game six times after starting 3-0, including three of four on the road.
The bad news: They have played in 10 games overall after starting 3-0 and lost four times, including in 2001 after playing a similar suspect non-conference opponent schedule.
The Wildcats fattened up against San Diego State, Idaho and UNLV to start 3-0 before falling to — gasp — Washington at home that season. San Diego State, Idaho and UNLV finished 8-25 that season.
Arizona is 3-0 after defeating NAU, UNLV and Texas-San Antonio. The unranked Wildcats travel to Seattle to face the 16th-ranked Huskies tomorrow at 4 p.m. Oddsmakers list Washington as a 10-point favorite despite the UA’s improved defense and a running game with Ka’Deem Carey that can control the tempo of a game.
The most significant difference in this comparison: Arizona was coached by John Mackovic in 2001. Rich Rodriguez is pumping life into the team, whereas Mackovic was like Count Dracula, sucking the blood out of what was a proud program before his arrival in 2001.
Mackovic’s record after that 3-0 start in 2001 was 7-18 by the time a player revolt resulted in his firing five games into the 2003 season.
Arizona is not headed in that direction under Rodriguez win or lose tomorrow. The Wildcats’ new football facilities have improved the UA’s recruiting status and Rodriguez fits at Arizona like he did at West Virginia.
Rodriguez’s success — with an 11-5 record — through his first 16 games is unmatched by any other UA coach in the Pac-10/12 era. Remember that Rodriguez took over a program in which its head coach — Mike Stoops — was fired midway through the season before his arrival.
Jim Young has the best start at the same stage — 13-3 in 1973 and 1974 — when Arizona was in the WAC.
Three other coaches have started 11-5 or better — J.F. “Pop” McKale (11-5, 1914-16), G.A. Oliver (11-4-1, 1933-34) and Miles Casteel (11-5, 1939-40) — but those guys were around before Rodriguez was born.
He started 6-10 at West Virginia before compiling a 60-26 record there in seven seasons. He was 7-9 at Michigan in his second season in 2009 before his ouster the following year, ending with a 15-22 record with the Wolverines.
A victory at Washington tomorrow would be his most significant as a head coach at that stage of a program’s development. A loss would be disappointing but not demoralizing. That’s a huge difference.
MIKE HANAOKA WILBUR THE WILDCAT DRAWINGS:[table “” not found /]