The Pac-12 scheduling department has done the Arizona Wildcats no favors. But excuses don't change the bottom line.
The Wildcats' failures the past two seasons all centered around three games -- three games in a row. Arizona played a combination of games against the USC Trojans, Oregon Ducks and Stanford Cardinal, undoubtedly the three Pac-12 powers. Of course, Arizona lost three consecutive times to those teams each year.
The problem though, is how the Wildcats responded. Let's just say it wasn't well.
It's not easy for the players to keep confidence or trust in anything when three teams walked over Arizona, but it's not like the Wildcats responded either. That was under Mike Stoops. Now under Rich Rodriguez, we've seen that the coaching staff has already gotten a handle on execution; the schemes have been put into place faster than anyone could've imagined.
The thing to watch next is how the first-year head coach can develop a toughness in his squad.
We're still waiting to see if Arizona responds to adversity. After the 49-0 drubbing by the Oregon Ducks, Arizona came out timidly, getting behind the Oregon State Beavers on Saturday before a failed comeback in a stronger second half. As the season winds along, can the Wildcats find that fortitude that Mike Riley's team used to defeat UA in Arizona Stadium?
Arizona has seven more games to give it a shot, but it won't be easy. By season's end, the Wildcats could very well have played six, seven, even eight ranked teams through a 12-game regular season. And while the loss to Oregon State might've been a blow to any bowl game hopes, how Arizona plays -- moreso recovers -- as the year wears on will be the key.
In other words, how will the Wildcats learn to lose sight of their losses?
The cliche term for it is a cornerback mentality.
That might be hard to do considering UA played No. 18 Stanford next before the bye leads into . But if Arizona hopes to make a mark in a Pac-12 that appears stronger than first anticipated they can't get caught up in the past.
If they take that next step as a program, then we can start talking about Pac-12 championships.