Arizona Wildcats Football: Most Underrated Team in the Country?

Mike SchwartzerContributor ISeptember 22, 2010

TUCSON, AZ - SEPTEMBER 18:  Head coach Mike Stoops of the Arizona Wildcats reacts during the college football game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Arizona Stadium on September 18, 2010 in Tucson, Arizona. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 34-27.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats are finally playing at a level that their fans have been waiting for. 

After beating No. 9 Iowa on Saturday night, the Wildcats moved from No. 24 to the No. 14 team in the country.  Wildcat followers rejoiced with the news because their beloved team from southern Arizona finally received national recognition.

Well they should take a look at the polls one more time.

It’s understandable why No. 10 Arkansas or No. 11 Wisconsin beat out Arizona in the polls, but to be behind No. 13 Utah shows that the Wildcats have yet to gain the respect they deserve.

Some may look and say it’s only a one-spot difference, but one placement is not what this article is about.

Utah is a good team, but for a team that has only three challenging games per year (not including a bowl game) they shouldn’t be pegged as high as No. 13 three weeks into the season.  Yes, they beat Pitt but they won’t have to prepare for another difficult team until they play No.5 TCU in the first week of November. 

Something BCS schools have to deal with that non-BCS schools don’t is having to prepare for marquee schools every week during conference play.  Instead, non-BCS schools might have one tough game and then a two-month break until they really have to face a truly tough opponent. 

The voters need to recognize that.

This is not a stick on Utah, but rather a flag to the voters who have become so fixated on Cinderella stories.  In doing so they are making it too easy for some of these non-BCS schools to fill that glass slipper when maybe they aren’t the right fit.

It is not Utah’s fault they have to play these small schools year in and year out, but for a school to be a true Cinderella they should have to be judged at the same level as the rest of the schools.  They shouldn't be given a handicap just because they are not in a conference that allows them to play established universities every Saturday.

When you look at Arizona’s schedule they will have to prepare to face No. 5 Oregon, No. 16 Stanford, No. 20 USC, and No. 24 Oregon State, along with other Pac-10 teams just waiting to crack the Top 25. 

That’s more talent than Utah has ever played in a single season.  That also applies to any team in a BCS conference; the chance of losing every week is so much greater.

Neither Arizona nor Utah were ranked when the preseason polls were released, however after a win at home against an overrated Pitt team in overtime, along with wins against UNLV and New Mexico (1-11 in 2009) the Utes have somehow snuck into the No. 13 slot.

Arizona faced two small conference schools, winning in similar fashion as Utah before defeating No. 9 Iowa at home.

If you were to line the teams up head-to-head, would Arizona not be able to handle the Utes?  Just like many predicted they would not be able to handle the enormous Hawkeye offensive line or the spectacular Hawkeye defense.

To put a non-BCS team higher than an Arizona team that has played high-quality football during the past three weeks is a slap in the face.

It’s even evident in the media.  Many picked against Arizona. They kept talking about the Holiday Bowl crumble, and even towards the end of the game one of the announcers played it off as just another non-conference game that didn’t have much meaning.

With the ‘Cats thinking they have finally made a statement, there is even more they will have to do to prove their worth amongst the rest of college football. 


*Rankings based on AP Top 25 Poll