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Arizona and Arizona State both made a splash in the offseason with high profile coaching hires.
Two weeks into the college football season, the two rivals are among the nation’s biggest surprises.
Arizona (0-2) has been a disappointment thus far, while Arizona State (2-0) has quieted a lot of naysayers by vaulting into the national rankings, at No. 23 in this weeks’ Associated Press poll.
ASU’s hiring of Herm Edwards was puzzling, given that he had not coached since 2008. The Sun Devils were widely expected to finish at the bottom of the Pac-12 South.
After a 49-7 rout of Texas-San Antonio in the opener, the Sun Devils upset No. 15 Michigan State, 16-13, last weekend.
“It was a gratifying win for our players,” Edwards said during the Pac-12 coaches teleconference this week. “I’m happy for the players and the coaching staff.
“Now, how do we handle it? We’re about to play a team that’s similar in San Diego State. They have a great program.”
On Saturday, ASU will get its first road test, against an SDSU team that is 32-9 over the past three years.
“We’re not the team that we aspire to be, by any stretch of the imagination,” Edwards said. “That’s our mantra right now: let’s just play up to our capabilities. Leave it all on the grass when you play and we can all look at the film and say, ‘You know what, we played as hard as we can play and if it didn’t work out, it didn’t work out.'”
It hasn’t worked out very well for Arizona in its first season with coach Kevin Sumlin.
Considered a contender in the South, the Wildcats returned 16 starters, including dynamic quarterback Khalil Tate. So far, Tate has struggled and so have the ‘Cats.
Following a 28-23 loss to BYU in the opener, Arizona was thumped by Houston, 45-18, last week. Houston led 38-0 until late in the third quarter.
“A lot of times the enemy has been ourselves,” Sumlin said.
Arizona hosts Southern Utah this week and expects to get a boost from three veterans who return after missing the first two games. Sixth-year senior left tackle Layth Friekh, senior cornerback Jace Whittaker and sophomore safety Scottie Young Jr., all returning starters, are expected to be in the lineup.
“I look for that to help and really rejuvenate when you’re talking about three of your better players that weren’t available,” Sumlin said. “That gave us a little shot in the arm (Monday) at practice.”
Of course, the Wildcats also need to get Tate going. After rushing for 1,411 yards – most of that in the final nine games – last year, Tate has just 22 yards on 15 carries this year.
Utes set to host Huskies
Last week, a pair of Pac-12 heavyweights opened conference play, with Stanford getting a 17-3 win against USC. This Saturday, another pair of contenders will square off.
Utah (2-0) will host No. 10 Washington (2-0) at 8 p.m. MT. In the preseason media poll, Washington was picked to win the North division, while Utah was picked to finish second in the South.
“It doesn’t matter what time of the season it is, you know you’re going to be in for a tough, tough game with those guys,” Huskies head coach Chris Petersen said.
Washington is 2-1 against the Utes the last three years, winning the last two games. All three have been close, however, with Utah holding an 88-87 scoring edge in those games.
Hawkins takes aim at Stanford
Former Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins will try to lead his new team, UC-Davis, to an upset of No. 9 Stanford on Saturday.
CU’s head coach from 2006-10, Hawkins is in his second year with the Aggies, a Football Championship Subdivision team. UC-Davis is 2-0 for the first time since 2004 and, at No. 23, is in the STATS FCS Top 25 poll for the first time ever.
“They’re playing inspired right now,” Stanford head coach David Shaw said. “They’re playing extremely well, they’re playing hard, they’re playing physical, they’re playing tough, they’re making plays on the offensive side, they’re making plays on the defensive side.”
The UC-Davis staff has a lot of CU ties, including three former Buffs’ players: quarterback Cody Hawkins (receivers coach), cornerback Cha’pelle Brown (defensive backs coach) and tight end Paul Creighton (tight ends coach/special teams coordinator). Former CU director of football operations Robert Tucker is the Aggies’ defensive coordinator.
Utah is 4-9 in its last 13 conference games – with seven one-score losses – dating back to 2016. … Washington, meanwhile, is 16-3 against Pac-12 foes the past two years, with all three being one-score losses. … Oregon has had more different players (12) score touchdowns than any other team in the country through the first two weeks. … USC (1-1) plays at Texas (1-1) on Saturday, making its first visit to Austin, Tex., since 1966.