Penn State Of Mind

The Answer Dude Predicts Arizona Will Win By 6.

ALL OVER TOWN, Tucsonans are abuzz with talk of The Big Football Game. But since there's more than a month until Amphi takes on Sabino, I figured in the meantime we'd take a look at the game the Arizona Wildcats have this weekend at top-ranked Penn State. And to help us with our analysis of the most important opening game the UA has ever played, here he is, straight from a stint as chief political strategist for the Lamar Alexander 2000 campaign -- The Answer Dude!

DUDE: Hey, that's cheap political strategist. I agreed to do that gig in exchange for a dozen plaid shirts. I've got a friend who's making an indie 'vato loco' movie in L.A. and they needed 'em for wardrobe.

TW: Can we move on to football? What do you think of The Big Game?

DUDE: I like Amphi by a touchdown, but it should be a hell of a game.

TW: Not that game! The Arizona-Penn State game on Saturday.

DUDE: Yeah, that should be a hell of a game, too. I've always liked Penn State. They just play hard; nothing flashy. In fact, they've got the boringest uniforms in America. Next to a Nittany Lion player, Lamar Alexander looks like an Aztec pimp.

TW: What's one good thing about this game being played now?

DUDE: Well, it should be fun watching that Anthony Gimino guy at The Daily Star work himself into a frenzy. You know how he's always doing that Uncle Guido and Joe Paterno schtick? He should be in goombah heaven with this one.

TW: Didn't you know? Gimino's gone.

DUDE: He died?

TW: No. He moved to Seattle.

DUDE: And the difference?

TW: What's the biggest advantage for Penn State?

DUDE: They're used to playing in big games, they have good players and good coaching, but their biggest advantage is that they're playing at home.

TW: And?

DUDE: You'll have a stadium full of 94,000 people who live in Central Pennsylvania, for cryin' out loud. The official state color is rust. They call the place "Happy Valley," like we're all supposed to appreciate the irony. The closest "big city" to the Penn State campus is Altoona, which is listed first alphabetically in The National Register of Places You Never, Ever Want To Go.

In Pennsylvania, the main form of population control is that during the summer they have flies big enough to carry off small children. We're talking some seriously hostile people here.

TW: So what, if anything, do the Wildcats have in their favor?

DUDE: One big thing is that Sports Illustrated picked Penn State No. 1 in its College Football Preview issue. This is the greatest sports magazine in the world, but when it comes to prognostication, they'd have trouble predicting the publication date of next week's issue.

They're like that Union general during the Civil War who, after being warned about Confederate sharpshooters across the valley, said, "They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist -- !"

A few years back, SI picked Arizona as its top team and the Cats lost to not one, but two teams from the WAC, a conference so weak that rappers adopted its name as a slang word for "awful."

TW: What's a key for fans to watch for?

DUDE: In college football, the team which scores first goes on to win more than 70 percent of the time. Of course, a lot of those games are blowouts where one team scores first and just keeps on scoring.

But it will be big if the Cats can score first and put pressure on PSU to keep up. With its many weapons and quick-score ability, Arizona may have the best offense in the country this year, but you don't want to try to play catch-up at Penn State.

TW: What will happen if the Cats win?

DUDE: One down, 12 more to go. In the AP poll, Penn State is ranked third, the UA fourth. If Arizona wins, the two teams will flip-flop spots in that poll. If the Cats lose, they'll probably drop to eighth or something. East Coast bias.

TW: So who do you like?

DUDE: Rene Russo in The Thomas Crown Affair.

TW: No, in the game.

DUDE: Arizona by six. But be it known that I have, in the past, written for Sports Illustrated. So don't bet on it.

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