When the Arizona football team plays Stanford tomorrow in a Pacific 10 Conference matchup, forgive Wildcat players if they treat it more like a non-league game.
Only 10 players on the Arizona roster faced off against the Cardinal the last time the teams played in 2002, and a mere two started.
"I honestly can't remember ever playing them," said senior running back Mike Bell, who was limited in his carries against Stanford during his redshirt freshman season.
"I'm always excited to play someone new," he said.
The Wildcats (1-4, 0-2 Pac-10) and the Cardinal (2-2, 1-1) play tomorrow at 4 p.m. at Arizona Stadium in a Family Weekend game that will renew a Pac-10 rivalry.
Along with the unfamiliarity among the players, both schools bring in new coaches.
Second-year Wildcat head coach Mike Stoops readies for his first game against Stanford after taking over for John Mackovic, and the Cardinal counter with Walt Harris, who took over for Buddy Teevens in the offseason.
Stoops said Harris is having some of the same problems he encountered last year as a new coach in a new setting, but that Stanford is starting to turn things around.
"They're doing the best they can with the personnel they've got," Stoops said. "Stanford is a team that you can see growing with confidence."
The Cardinal are coming off a 24-21 win at Washington State Saturday, the team's first conference victory in nearly a year, and defeated the Wildcats 16-6 on Oct. 17, 2002, in Palo Alto, Calif.
A big reason for Stanford's third consecutive win in Pullman, Wash., was the play of senior quarterback Trent Edwards, who finished the game with a career-high three touchdown passes on 19-of-28 passing for 257 yards and no interceptions.
"He makes some plays for them. He scrambles. He makes good throws and good decisions," Stoops said. "You can see them getting better because their quarterback play is getting better."
Stoops said the Wildcat defense will concentrate on stopping the mobile Edwards, who led the team with 92 rushing yards on 12 carries.
Arizona is also looking to break through in the conference-win column after three straight games against nationally ranked opponents.
"It's a lighter schedule for us (coming up), but it's still going to be tough," said sophomore defensive tackle Yaniv Barnett.
Facing a 1-4 start and with its postseason opportunities slipping by the week, the Wildcats hope that the strides they've made so far start to pay off.
"We'll have a great opportunity to win if we continue to improve and play better," Stoops said. "This is a big game for Stanford, and this is a big game for us."
Tomorrow is also Hispanic Heritage Day, sponsored by Arizona and the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. While the game will not be shown on television, it will be on 1290 AM and a Spanish channel, 1210 AM. ... Stanford has won the last two meetings between the teams and three out of the last four contests. ... Arizona has played Stanford the fewest times (20) of any Pac-10 school.