The Arizona Wildcats and ASU Sun Devils both traveled to California this weekend, playing Stanford and USC, respectively. While the end result was the same for both teams, the way that they came to those conclusions were completely opposite in nature.
The Wildcats were featured in a marquee match-up of top-15 teams, but much like the Stanford fan base, Arizona didn't show up for the game. The defense forced only four punts, created zero turnovers and could not stop Andrew Luck's passing attack.
Arizona's offense was a lousy 7 for 16 on third down conversions, and a surprising 1 for 3 on fourth down tries. This lack of execution can be blamed on a lot of things, including Nick Foles being rusty after missing a few weeks. But this loss falls on Mike Stoops.
The coach failed to prepare his team for this game. Stanford has a consistent game plan that they execute to perfection. Coach Jim Harbaugh is proving to both NCAA and NFL teams that he can win anywhere. That's why Stanford won by 25 points, and that's why Arizona still has a long way to go before they can be taken seriously on the national level.
Arizona State suffered a completely different fate in Los Angeles, losing a heartbreaker 34-33 to USC. Blocked punts, blocked extra points, missed field goals - this was a typical ASU loss, grasping defeat from the jaws of victory.
The Sun Devils did everything you could to win this game. They limited their penalties, incurring only 35 yards on four flags. They only turned over the ball twice, and they had 398 total offensive yards.
It's only when you read in between the lines when it becomes clear what occurred. ASU was 4 for 13 on third downs, which forced Thomas Weber to punt the ball seven times. Weber's tired leg was the reason the potentially game-winning field goal was wide left, and the Sun Devils went home with a shocking one point loss.
Ultimately, we must look at the coaches of both teams and wonder what caused these losses to occur. We're dealing with highly-paid professionals, and Dennis Erickson even won a national championship at Miami. Why then, are UA and ASU still losing these games? Why can't Arizona's vaunted defense shut down Stanford? When will the Sun Devils actually win a close game?
These questions must be pondered by the administrations of both schools. While Stoops is surely safe, Erickson must feel quite uneasy about his job, especially with another losing season a near-certainty in Tempe.