Arizona plays Alabama’s basketball team today, which is the equivalent of the Wildcats’ football team visiting Tuscaloosa, Ala. The Crimson Tide hoops program has an occasional memorable season — remember when it beat Lute Olson’s first NCAA tournament team in 1985? — but has not sustained success. Alabama also eliminated the Wildcats in 1990 in a forgettable game against Wimp Sanderson’s team in Long Beach, losing 77-55 in a first round game. … Will there come a day when Alabama’s football program, ranked No. 5 in victories in the history of the sport, plays Arizona? Are the chances of that happening enhanced with former athletic director Greg Byrne holding the same title with Alabama? “At this point, there are no plans for a home and home or a neutral game between both schools,” Byrne messaged me today. I’m clinging to the words “at this point.” Byrne struck a deal with his former school, Mississippi State, for a series when he was at Arizona. The Wildcats host Mississippi State in five years and make a return trip the following season in 2023. …
The earliest Arizona would want to schedule a game with Alabama is in 2032 because from 2018 to 2031 the Wildcats have at least one game scheduled against a Power 5 opponent, Houston or BYU. Playing a nine-game Pac-12 schedule in addition to playing more than one quality non-conference opponent is ludicrous. The 2022 non-conference slate, for example, looks like a killer with San Diego State, Mississippi State and perennial FCS power North Dakota State included. … If Alabama is included in a schedule at least 15 years from now, that is not uncommon. Early in 2016, Arizona scheduled a home-and-home with Nebraska in 2028 and 2031. … An important factor to consider, and maybe Byrne’s prior relationship with Arizona can override this — Alabama generally does not play non-conference road games. The last time the Crimson Tide did that was in 2011 at Penn State. The previous time the Crimson Tide traveled West of the Mississippi to play a non-conference team? Way back in 2003 at Hawaii. … The “Byrne Bowl” between Arizona and Alabama would be a significant boost for the Wildcats’ program to have the distinction of playing the Crimson Tide on their home turf and not at a neutral site, if it comes to that. The possibility is not likely, but there’s always a chance, right? … Alabama and Tennessee are the only programs among those in the top five in wins that Arizona has never played. The Wildcats are 12-44-1 against teams in the top 10 with games scheduled in the regular season against Michigan (never traveled to Tucson), Texas (once in 1925 in Austin), Ohio State (three times in Columbus and once in Tucson), Nebraska (never in Tucson but the Cornhuskers will play at Arizona in 2031), Notre Dame (twice in South Bend and once in Tucson), Oklahoma (home-and-home in 1988 and 1989), Penn State (only once at Penn State in a made-for-TV season-opener in 1999) and conference foe USC. …
ARIZONA VS. COLLEGE FOOTBALL’S TOP 10 PROGRAMS IN WINS
A changing of the guard when it comes to Olson and Sean Miller-coached players in the NBA has occurred with Miller having seven players and Olson five this season with the addition of rookies Lauri Markkanen at Chicago and Kadeem Allen at Boston. Four Miller players are on the fringe of the NBA playing in the G League — Brandon Ashley (Dallas affiliate Texas Legends), Chance Comanche and Kobi Simmons (Memphis affiliate Memphis Hustle) and Nick Johnson (Spurs affiliate in Austin). … The fact that Olson still has five players in the NBA 11 seasons after he coached his last game at Arizona is phenomenal. That equals the amount Rick Pitino currently has in the NBA and he coached Louisville through last season. … Aaron Gordon (18.5 points and 8.7 rebounds a game) is playing well enough to become Arizona’s first NBA All-Star since Andre Iguodala in 2012 and only the fourth in program history. Alabama, in fact, has more NBA All-Stars (four) than Arizona (three): Antonio McDyess, Latrell Sprewell, Gerald Wallace and Mo Williams. ASU actually has more with four as well (Fat Lever, Joe Caldwell, James Harden and Lionel Hollins). Arizona’s All-Stars: Iguodala, Sean Elliott and Gilbert Arenas. The hope is for Gordon to remain healthy because he has endured injuries in his young career. Gordon suffered a concussion in Friday’s game between Orlando and Denver when he collided face-first into Gary Harris. Gordon is out indefinitely. …
Where will Herm Edwards fall on the hate scale for Arizona fans when it comes to ASU football coaches? Nobody will top Frank Kush, who owned the rivalry. Darryl Rogers crawled under the skin of Arizona fans because of how he thought of ASU at a tier higher than Arizona and did not put as much stock into the rivalry. John Cooper and Larry Marmie were more of an annoyance who weren’t around long. Cooper was 0-2-1 against Arizona. Marmie, 1-3 against the Wildcats, was known for running a fake punt with 3 minutes left although ASU led 37-6 in 1991 (the game that ended “The Streak”). Bruce Snyder and Dennis Erickson were two former conference coaches who were tolerable but not liked nonetheless. Dirk Koetter’s six years at ASU seem so non-descript because the Sun Devils were average. Todd Graham was one that Arizona fans probably did not like because of his exterior, snarly. At least one person who has coached in college has mentioned to me that Graham is a “jerk.” … Edwards will probably be likable to many Arizona fans from his ESPN background and close relationship with former studio mate Tedy Bruschi. Until Edwards says something out of line about Arizona, which probably won’t happen, Wildcat fans will tolerate him before Arizona plays ASU. If you say you don’t want to hear Edwards talk, you are lying to yourself. He can motivate anybody. The closest dislike Arizona fans will have for him will be laughing at what he has to say, such has when he mentioned to a Devils Digest reporter during his introductory press conference: “I’m Catholic now, I’m a Christian. Watch out for those Devils. I’m just saying. We’re good, brother. We’re good. I know. I ain’t taking it personal.” …
It was @FootballASU coach Herm Edwards final show today at @ESPN. Arizona Wildcat Tedy Bruschi had a message for @TheSunDevils current and future. Christmas miracles do happen. 🔱🎅🏼🎄 pic.twitter.com/lcThkClzU0
During Bruschi’s final telecast with Edwards on Friday, Bruschi challenged every player at Arizona State to “give this man (Edwards) everything you’ve got.” “Everything you’ve got, every single day in the offseason, during the season, right now for crying out loud,” Bruschi said. “Give him everything you’ve got because when he gets there, I guarantee you one thing, he will give you everything he has and more. I wish I could have played for this man. You’re very fortunate. I love you coach.” Edwards then embraced him. … Like father-like son: Former Catalina Foothills standout Austin Nehls, son of former Arizona sharp-shooting guard Joe Nehls, is the second-leading scorer for Central Connecticut State. He is averaging 12.9 points and 3.4 rebounds a game. Austin, a 6’3″ and 185-pound junior, is shooting 41.4 percent from 3-point range. … New Oregon football coach Mario Cristobal shares a past with Arizona when he traveled to Tucson with No. 2 Miami in 1991 as a starting offensive tackle. Cristobal played in the game, won by the Hurricanes 36-9. The following year in Cristobal’s senior season, when Arizona went to Miami and lost to the top-ranked Hurricanes 8-7, he did not play because of an injury. Many of his former teammates, including “The Rock” Dwayne Johnson, played on the Miami team that lost to Arizona 29-0 in the Fiesta Bowl that followed the 1993 regular season. Warren Sapp and Ray Lewis were on that team as well. When Cristobal coaches against Arizona he must think back to the early 1990’s when Arizona hung with the big, bad Hurricanes. … Former Arizona defensive tackle standout and recruiting extraordinaire Joe Salave’a reportedly is likely to remain on Cristobal’s staff as Oregon’s defensive line coach. Arizona should have never let him go. …
Arizona’s football schedule is favorable in 2018 with the Wildcats not playing Stanford or Washington again and finishing with three of its last four games at home. In the last month, the Wildcats will be in Tucson except for a game at Washington State in the second-to-last game of the season. … Important to look at is how Khalil Tate will fare opening the season to give some credence to his Heisman run next season. The Wildcats open against BYU, Houston and FCS school Southern Utah. BYU and Houston have played decent against the run this season. Every team’s focal point will be to contain Tate. How he overcomes that is essential. Louisville’s Lamar Jackson had a similar season statistically this season than last when he won the Heisman as a freshman. Objective No. 1 for Tate is to work on his passing game daily. He completed 61.4 percent of his passes but threw eight interceptions with his nine touchdowns and he passed for 1,289 yards. Given a full season at quarterback without injury Tate could post similar numbers as Jackson. Tate has rushed for 1,353 yards on 133 carries. Jackson is at 1,443 yards at 208 carries. Jackson has completed 241 of 399 pass attempts for 3,489 yards with 25 touchdowns and only six interceptions. Tate has completed 94 of 153 passes. He averages 13.7 yards per completion. If he completed 241 passes like Jackson this year that would translate to 3,302 passing yards. Stay injury-free Tate, cut down on the interceptions and get Arizona to at least nine wins — you’ll be in New York City this time next year awaiting the Heisman voting results. …
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.