Friday, September 17, 2010

Arizona/Iowa: A Big Game for Program, Town and Team

Let's get one thing straight: by the end of the year Saturday's game doesn't figure to significantly impact season goals for this Wildcat football team.  There are two goals for this team: 1) Win the Pac-10 2) Beat ASU--Saturday will not come to bear on either goal.  However, make no mistake: Saturday's showdown with Iowa is a BIG effing game.

Any time you welcome a top ten team into your house it's a big game, but this game has added importance for Arizona.  These type of games build programs, buoy recruiting, and make money.  ESPN is in the house.  The students are in town.  The old stadium will be sold out, and even apathetic Tucson football fans have pulled their heads out of the sand to take a look.  The electricity in the air is palpable, but excitement among Wildcat fans is still gently guarded by years of "almost" and "not quite enough."  A win tomorrow and fans will let their guards down, fasten their bandwagon seat belts, cross their fingers, and think Pasadena.

Can't you just imagine the scene already?

The UA Mall will be jammed full of alumni, students, and Tucsonans all decked out in red, hours before the game.  Strangers on University Ave will be high fivin' and screaming bear down.  Old college friends will fly into town to rendezvous at their old stomping grounds and revel in the on campus fervor.   The student section will be shaking the entire eastern side of the stadium with red pom poms.  Prominent former basketball players and football players will be on the field (Channing Frye, Damon Stoudamire, and Joe McLean are in town--I bet that list grows).  People are going to turn out in droves to celebrate Arizona.

So will Arizona seize the moment?

If they do, the excitement surrounding the football program as it enters Pac-10 play will be as high as it's ever been.  Tucson will become a hostile place to play for reasons besides heat this season.  TV listings for UA games will say ABC instead of TBA.  Arizona basketball recruiting target Josiah Turner and recruiting commit Nick Johnson--visiting this weekend--will see a party that most 18-year-olds can't even dream about.  But a victory will have an impact that will ripple far beyond this season and this football team.

A victory will make a statement about how far this program has come under Mike Stoops and where it is going. This game is an opportunity for Arizona to position itself in the national conversation which hasn't happened in over a decade.  This game is a chance for a program, not just a team, to make some serious noise--so let's hear it!

The stage is set, the actors are cast, the battle lines are drawn, and the kegs are cold...

...the only thing left to do is BEAR DOWN and beat the Hawkeyes!

Just remember, stay off the field until the game is actually over.

PS: Click the Damon Stoudamire link, seriously.

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