For the Wildcats, this is a bounce back game.
Losing isn't the end-all, be-all in sports but it most certainly cannot become a habit. Responding to adversity is the most telling characteristic of a winner and so Rich Rodriguez and his Wildcats will need to show just what they're made of as they host Oregon State this Saturday. And, as we stated from the opening line, this is a bounce back game. A tilt in which the Wildcats will have to show their mettle.
And I'm not just talking about rebounding from 0-49.
It was this very matchup one season ago that ended Mike Stoops' tenure at Arizona. The animated Head Coach never made it home from Corvallis as the Wildcats lost their tenth consecutive game to a BCS opponent. A game that dropped Arizona to a paltry 2-6 against the Beavers during Stoops' time in Tucson. This is the same Oregon State that blemished the Wildcats' record early in a promising 2010 campaign before the wheels came off. Ultimately, I think it's an understatement to say this Beavers program has been a thorn in Wildcat football's collective side.
So yes, this is a bounce back game, but not just from the embarrassing, what-we-hope-was the Autzen Anomaly, but rather from a near decade of utter ineptitude against a program (OSU) who, frankly, has thorned many Pac sides.
Now is the time for Arizona.
Their program slate has been whipped clean, a new regime with Rodriguez and his full staff on board to change the culture. Certainly words that get tossed around with new guys in charge, but Saturday night is as good as any to demonstrate some tangible culture shifts.
The aforementioned ten-straight BCS losses indicate what the Arizona football culture had become: tight. Anxiety over the magnitude of a given game oozed into the fan base and it became uncomfortable. A culture of winning can weather the storm of some tough games, a gauntlet not unlike what the Wildcats are currently faced with as they play three consecutive ranked opponents.
And coupling their tidy program slate is a now spotless season slate.
We're all familiar with the debacle in Oregon and Arizona's quest for relevance. But Saturday night marks a game the Wildcats no longer have to play with all eyes on them. They're on The Ticker but as Oregon State's guest and perhaps get a chance to simply be themselves.
Or, better yet, define themselves.
On the opposing sideline, the Beavers are in arguably similar territory. The newest darlings of the conference, OSU is playing sound football - as Mike Riley teams tend to do - and is looking to play a bigger role than just season spoiler; marching into Tucson and departing with a resounding "W" would send a loud message to the conference. A clear message to Arizona that there is perhaps more rebuilding to do than they think.
Kickoff is at 7pm in the desert and sixty game-minutes later, we'll look at two teams a whole lot differently than we do today. For Oregon State, it's the chance to be seen as a contender, the group that will methodically beat you in the most frustrating of manners: soundly.
For Arizona, Saturday marks the opportunity to redefine, to show their better half and that they are relevant.
The opportunity to bounce back.