Dear Mr. Football: What is the biggest nonconference home game in UA history, and who says so? A: Tucsonan Bob Svob, 91, played for the Wildcats in 1938-40 and has seen it all.
"I used to say, 'We'll go to the Rose Bowl in my lifetime,'" he said, chuckling. "Now I say 'Let's win this week.' I've found that there will always be a bigger and more important game if you wait a few weeks."
Dear Mr. Football: Is it insulting for the national analysts to suggest Arizona has never played in a spectacle like this in Tucson?
A: It's insulting to those Wildcats who played coming-of-age, Armageddon-type games: No. 2 Notre Dame in 1980, No. 6 SMU in 1985 and No. 6 Oklahoma in 1989.
Arizona won 73 games in the 1980s, positioning itself for a run on the national stage, and then, in a bit of perfect timing, along came No. 11 Illinois in the 1990 opener. Arizona thumped the Big Ten favorites 28-16. A lot of "best-ever" themes were applied - and a few weeks later Arizona lost to an Oregon State team that finished 1-10.
So stuff those "best-ever" labels. All of those it's-more-important-than-life-or-death games were fought a long time ago. If the Rose Bowl isn't at stake, it's just good television programming.
Dear Mr. Football: Can the "Wildcat Walk" have any lasting effect?
A: One of the reasons Iowa's defensive line can be so overwhelming - it might be the best in the nation - is because junior Broderick Binns took part in a similar pre-game entrance before the Ohio State-Iowa game in the fall of 2006.
Binns had taken a recruiting visit to Kansas State and scheduled another for Arizona State. But after he spent Game Day at Kinnick Stadium he was so impressed he became a Hawkeye.
"We rode the bus to the stadium and went down to the locker room," Binns told reporters four years ago. "I think the best part was getting off the bus and seeing all the people welcoming the team and cheering for them. I heard my name a couple times, so that was fun."
At the initial Wildcat Walk last week, I saw star UA center Colin Baxter, game face on, push through the crowd. Three UA coeds tapped him on the shoulder. He stopped. They snapped his photograph. Baxter beamed. Don't underestimate the power of feeling good about yourself when you're on your way to a tough night at the office.
Dear Mr. Football: How hot does it get in Iowa City?
A: The summertime high at Iowa City was 92 on Aug.12. But heat won't be a factor tonight. That's so overblown.
The Hawkeyes will use six or eight of those giant Big Fogg Misting Systems, sideline fans that can make a July afternoon in Gila Bend seem chilly. The only Hawkeyes feeling the heat tonight will be those who tapped a keg after playing golf, without sunscreen, who then discover that the wait time to get access to the ancient men's restrooms at Arizona Stadium could create a serious personal-plumbing problem.
Dear Mr. Football: Is Iowa's defensive line really the best Arizona has faced?
A: Until now, it was probably the 1994 Wazzu "Palouse Posse" that had an unprecedented three All-Pac-10 first-team defensive linemen: Chad Eaton, Don Sasa and DeWayne Patterson.
That WSU defense was as good (229 total yards per game, 12.1 points) as any of Arizona's Desert Swarm defenses. Alas, the Cougars' offense was inept; they lost games 10-7 to Arizona and 10-9 to Tennessee and finished No. 10 in Pac-10 total offense. What a waste.
Dear Mr. Football: Could UA co-offensive coordinator Seth Littrell have kept Iowa All-America defensive end Adrian Clayborn from playing here tonight?
A: Littrell, then an assistant coach at Texas Tech, personally recruited Clayborn and got him to take a visit to Lubbock, Texas, in the fall of 2005. Didn't work. How good is Clayborn?
"He is the guy everybody talks about, and he is what they say he is," said UA co-offensive coordinator Bill Bedenbaugh. "But it doesn't end there. The other three guys are really good. On most weeks you can say, 'Look, we'll take care of this guy, double-team him, not let him make any plays.' Usually, one or two of the guys are just guys. But with Iowa, you can't do that. Every guy is good. You rarely find that."
Dear Mr. Football: Who has the most to gain tonight, Mike Stoops or Kirk Ferentz?
A: Forget those guys. Ferentz is earning $3.6 million this season and has a contract through 2020. Stoops is paid $1.1 million this year on a deal that runs through 2013. Even if he failed here, an NFL team, or a top college program, would hustle to hire him as its defensive coordinator for $500,000 a year, minimum.
The guy who can improve his status more than anyone tonight is UA senior left tackle Adam Grant. He'll be matched against Clayborn. If Grant plays well, he probably soars into the NFL draft.
"I'm excited to test my skills and see how much I've grown through the years," said Grant. "In the Pac-10, I always play against NFL-type defensive linemen, like Cal's Tyson Alualu and USC's Everson Griffen. Clayborn is going to try to kick my butt, and I'm going to try to kick his butt."
Dear Mr. Football: Why does Iowa have a better football program than Arizona? Should it?
A: They should be much closer in modern history, 1980-2010, and they would've been had not John Mackovic set UA football back with such devastating results.
The Hawkeyes stand in a frustrating Midwest recruiting line behind Ohio State, Michigan, Nebraska and Notre Dame. It's similar to Arizona's status behind USC, UCLA and Oregon in the Pac-10, and sometimes Stanford.
The difference now is that Iowa recruits so many capable in-state players. The Hawkeyes have seven scheduled starters tonight from Iowa. Arizona hasn't been able to do as well in Arizona. It has but two in-state starters, defensive end Brooks Reed and linebacker Jake Fischer. If Arizona wins tonight it'll be related not to a local kid, but to a Texan, Mr. Sunshine, quarterback Nick Foles.
Unless there is a quirky play or series of plays, the game should turn on Iowa's ability to disrupt Foles' launch point, force him out of the pocket, and regularly put him on his backside. This is a game of linemen: Iowa's defensive front against Arizona's big uglies on the offensive line.
Arizona 31, Iowa 30. You got that, Alex Zendejas?