Iowa Hawkeyes

B1G Power Rankings – Week of 10/5/2015

All season, I’ll be ranking the teams in the Big Ten from one to Maryland.  To see my predictions for how the season will play out, click here.

As always, if you think I’m right, wrong, or clinically insane, let me know in the comments.

Prepare to disagree…

  1. Ohio State.  The Buckeyes can continue to muddle and struggle along for another month as they should be heavy favorites over Rutgers, Minnesota, and Illinois.  But eventually, they’ll have to play championship level football.
  2. Michigan State.  Yes, Sparty’s win was an absolute fluke, but a win is a win.
  3. Michigan.  “Golly gee, what an unfortunate way to lose a game in the final seconds” – Mike Riley, probably.  The Wolverines are the first of four teams taking this week off, which means a lot of time to potentially dwell on that epic loss.
  4. Iowa.  The Hawkeyes continue to take care of business and get a week off to rest and prepare for a stretch run at an undefeated regular season.
  5. Wisconsin.  There is a pretty steep drop off between # 4 and #5 in the league, and one could make an argument for a handful of teams in this spot.  Wisconsin gets the nod for now, but I’m willing to drop them down if another team gets hot.
  6. Penn State.  I’ll be honest, this is probably way too high for the Nitany Lions, but their lone conference loss is to the league’s best team.  Nobody below them can make that claim.
  7. Illinois.  Speaking of being ranked too high, here are the Fighting Illini.  They were idle last week after beating Nebraska and narrowly lowing to Iowa.  Are they a legitimate middle tier team?  This week’s game against Wisconsin will go a long way to deciding that.
  8. Northwestern.  After starting out at a blazing 5-0, the Wildcats are falling apart losing to Michigan and Iowa by a combined score of 78-10.  Pat Fitzgerald’s team usually plays Nebraska tough, so they could get back on track with a win in Lincoln.
  9. Nebraska.  It’s tough to overstate just how important the 48-25 win over Minnesota was for this team.  Not only does it give them possession of the $5 Bits of Broken Chair trophy for the first time, it also takes a lot of heat off of Mike Riley and his team.  Let’s see if they can continue their momentum against Northwestern.
  10. Minnesota.  Good news:  after getting thumped at home by Nebraska, the Gophers have a week off to get things back on track.  Bad news:  their next three games are Michigan, at Ohio State, and at Iowa.  Yikes.
  11. Indiana.  The bottom tier starts out with the confusing Hoosiers.  They go into the Horseshoe and hold Ohio State to 34 points.  Then two weeks later, they allow Rutgers to score 55.  The Hoosiers have an upset opportunity if they can catch Sparty in a Wolverine hangover.
  12. Rutgers.  I missed last week, so I did not get a chance to properly mock Rutgers for losing an upset chance against Michigan State by spiking the ball on fourth down.  It’s a good thing they beat Indiana, as the Scarlet Knights may not win again for another month.
  13. Purdue.  Losers of five straight, the Boilermakers limp into their bye week dangerously close to being the first conference team eliminated from a bowl game.
  14. Maryland.  The Terrapins allowed 42 points to Idle last week.

B1G Power Rankings – Week of 10/5/2015

All season, I’ll be ranking the teams in the Big Ten from one to Maryland.  To see my predictions for how the season will play out, click here.

As always, if you think I’m right, wrong, or clinically insane, let me know in the comments.

Prepare to disagree…

  1. Ohio State – Yeah, I know the Buckeyes are still not clicking on all cylinders.  But a game with Maryland should be a good way to work out some of the kinks.
  2. Michigan State – What do the Spartans have to do to jump Ohio State?  For starters, they can avoid falling asleep at the wheel like they did with Purdue.  They were probably looking ahead to Rutgers.  Put away the lesser teams and move on.
  3. Northwestern.  Northwestern is off to an amazing start, and a shutout over Minnesota makes them the current best of the West.  Now the challenge is to keep that title over their next three games (at Michigan, Iowa, at Nebraska).
  4. Michigan.  I thought about having the Wolverines at #3, but gave the nod to Northwestern for their overall body of work.  Besides, blowing out Maryland isn’t exactly newsworthy.  Beat the Wildcats and we’ll talk.
  5. Iowa.  Who is this team, and what have they done with Ferentz’s Follies?  I’m not sold on Iowa in the long-term, but give them credit for what they’ve done so far.
  6. Indiana.  Was taking Ohio State deep into the fourth a sign of progress or a fluke?  For progress, the Hoosiers will need to beat Penn State this week, not just play them close.
  7. Wisconsin.  The injury bug has hit the Badgers hard.  Fortunately, their next four opponents (NU, Purdue, Illinois, Rutgers) are a combined 9-7, with Illinois having the best record of the bunch.
  8. Illinois.  Give credit to the Illini for hanging around and finding a way to beat Nebraska.  But they’ll need to play better for the other 59 minutes to beat Iowa.
  9. Minnesota.  Minnesota’s total points in 2015 (77) will likely be matched by Baylor when they play Kansas this weekend.  The lack of offense at Minnesota is startling – even by Big Ten standards.
  10. Penn State.  I continue to be underwhelmed by what I see out of Penn State.  I’m not sure if that will change this year.
  11. Nebraska.  You have to go back a long ways to find a more surprising and painful conference loss than Illinois.  The Huskers must bounce back, and quick.
  12. Purdue.  Credit to the Boilers for not quitting against Michigan State.  If they can score 21 point this week, they’ll have a great chance against Minnesota.
  13. Rutgers.  Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha World-Herald had a great line on Saturday:  “Rutgers is idle, and should remain that way.”  No arguments here.
  14. Maryland.  The Terps should be thankful that Hurricane Joaquin knocked them out of prime time.  Maryland’s three losses have been by 21, 39, and 28 points.  On a related note, South Florida (who Maryland beat by 18) must be a horrible team.

Big Ten Predictions – 2015

The Big Ten conference schedule kicks off in full this weekend, which means it’s time to predict how the teams will finish within their division.  I purposefully wait to make my picks until the non-conference schedule is over, so I can have a better idea of who is a contender and who is a pretender.  Given my prognosticating history, I need all the help I can get.

Once conference play gets rolling, I’ll do a weekly ranking of Big Ten teams 1 through 14, but for the initial round we’ll keep it East and West.  As we’ll discuss, the two divisions could not be more different this year.  Let’s start with the East…

East Division

The second edition of the Big Ten East reminds me a lot of the Big Eight of the 1980s.  Ohio State and Michigan State play the role of Nebraska and Oklahoma – legitimate national championship contenders, who will fight for the title.  Michigan has the role of Colorado – a team with potential, but one that’s probably a few years away.  The other four teams will play the role of KU, KSU, ISU, MU, and OSU – teams that will peak at average and will pose little threat to the two big dogs.

  1. Ohio State.  I know the Buckeyes have not been clicking on all cylinders.  Quarterback is still a bit of a question, but this program has earned the benefit of the doubt until somebody knocks them down.  Also, they host Michigan State in the Horseshoe.
  2. Michigan State.  Oregon’s blowout loss took some of the shine off of what initially looked like a big Spartan win.  Regardless, it’s still the best win by a Big Ten team this year.  Michigan State has a challenging conference schedule with road games at Michigan, Nebraska, and Ohio State.  If they win all three of those, they will have earned the division title.
  3. Michigan.  It’s not that I think Hail to the Harbaughs are the third best in the division, it’s that nobody else has impressed me enough to be ranked ahead of the Wolverines.  If I could, I’d insert a blank space to help illustrate the gap OSU/MSU and Michigan.
  4. Indiana.  Picking the Hoosiers fourth is as much about the mediocrity of the division as it is about Indiana discovering how to play non-awful football.  They may be 4-0 now, but there is a good chance they;ll be 5-3 or even 4-4 by November 1.
  5. Penn State.  There are good arguments to be made for any of the three remaining teams to be picked last.  From what I’ve seen of Penn State, they look rather dreadful despite having one of the finest quarterback talents in the country in Christian Hackenberg (hashtag sarcasm font).  But, they already own a head to head win over Rutgers.  Expect the Nitany Lions to beat a team they have no business beating, but to lose a lot of ugly games.
  6. Maryland.  In my first draft, I had Maryland ahead of Penn State.  But as miserable as PSU has looked, they haven’t been blown out by West Virginia and – yikes – Bowling Green.  Maryland’s season may be uglier than their uniforms, which is saying a lot.
  7. Rutgers.  I’m a little disappointed that Rutgers beat Kansas.  Had they lost to the Jayhawks, Rutgers would have been locked into the #14 spot in the weekly power rankings for the season, no questions asked.    Seriously, it might have taken wins over Ohio State and Michigan State to remove them from the cellar.  As it is, the odds are very good the Scarlet Knights will have more suspensions (five, not including coach Kyle Flood) than wins.

West Division

The West should be wild this year, as every team except Illinois and Purdue has a puncher’s chance of winning a trip to Indianapolis be blown out by a far better team from the East.  Before the season, this looked like a three horse race between Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Minnesota.  But strong starts from Iowa and Northwestern have pushed them into the conversation.  Predicting an order of finish is like flipping a five-sided coin – it’s damn near impossible.  The two biggest factors in the West will likely be a) who can protect their home field and who has favorable cross-over games with the East.  Teams that can win on the road and/or avoid OSU and MSU will have a leg up.  Regardless, I’ll be surprised if a team wins this division with fewer than two losses.

  1. Wisconsin.  Much like Ohio State, Wisconsin gets the nod based more on track record than clear potential.  The injury to Corey Clement is big (Husker fans, feel free to insert a cell phone joke here), and the NFL scouts aren’t lining up to see Joel Stave.  But the Badgers do have the easiest cross over games (Rutgers and at Maryland), have Iowa at home, and likely have a healthy mental edge on Nebraska.
  2. Minnesota.  Arguably the best defense in the division, the Gophers would likely be a strong favorite if a) their offense was better and/or b) they didn’t have the toughest schedule in the division (Michigan and at Ohio State).  Still, you underestimate Minnesota at your own risk.
  3. Nebraska.  The Huskers have the best offense in the division, a very strong run defense, and game-changing weapons on special teams.  But the Big Red has big issues with pass defense and pass rush, and is paper-thin at many critical positions.    There are other concerns with NU’s ability to avoid penalties and mental errors, and to avoid the one quarter each game where nothing goes right.  NU certainly has the talent and coaching to win the division, but this program needs to prove it can win big games again.
  4. Northwestern.  In the relatively short time I’ve been following the Big Ten, one pattern has become clear:  When Northwestern gets preseason hype, they fall apart.  When the Wildcats are ignored, they are sneaky good.  This is a sneaky good year, having beaten Stanford and Duke (thus winning the Brainiac Cup).  October is big for the other NU:  if they can go 4-0 or 3-1 against Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa, and Nebraska, they could coast into Indy.
  5. Iowa.  Kirk Ferentz’s seat was getting very very hot, but four straight wins have the Hawkeye faithful ready for a return to glory  – or at least willing to hold off on shoving Ferentz out the door.  If he can get a program that has been mediocre (if not bad) in the last three years to Indy, he deserves a contract extension.  Cross over games with Maryland and at Indiana will help his cause.
  6. Illinois.  It’s never good when you fire your head coach a week before the season starts, yet the Illini may be better for it – especially in the long run.  The issue in Champaign is talent and consistency.  Don’t be surprised if they play a spoiler role for one of the teams above them in the standings.
  7. Purdue.  The bad news:  The Boilermakers do not currently have a win over a FBS team.  The good news:  Purdue probably could finish fifth or sixth in the East.

 

Big Ten Championship

If everything holds to form, we’ll see a repeat of Ohio State and Wisconsin in Indianapolis.  This time, the Badgers make the game interesting…for a quarter, before the Buckeyes rout them again.

Dark horse prediction:  Michigan State pulls the upset in Columbus and heads to Indy undefeated and ranked #1.  They face a Nebraska team who lost 35-17 to the Spartans in Lincoln as Connor Cook threw for 375 yards and five touchdowns.  This time, Cook goes out with an early injury and Mark Banker’s run defense shuts down the Spartans.  Mike Riley’s offense clicks on all cylinders as Nebraska shocks the nation with a 31-9 win.

B1G Power Rankings – Week of 11/24

We’re back for another B1G season!  Throughout the 2014 season, I’ll be ranking the Big Ten schools 1-14.  To see where your team was ranked last week, click here.  As always, if you think I’m right, wrong, or clinically insane, let me know in the comments.

Prepare to disagree…

  1. Ohio State.  With a big of scare against lowly Indiana, the Buckeyes get to play their hated rivals with the knowledge that a big win can only help them in the eyes of the playoff committee.  In other words – look for Urban to run it up if he gets the chance.
  2. Michigan State.  The Spartans are still the second best team in this league – although a game against the Badgers or Gophers would sure be entertaining in a Big Ten kind of way..
  3. Wisconsin.  After eliminating Iowa from contention, the Badgers get to play Minnesota for the West Division crown.  And the game is in Madison.  Have we mentioned how well Wisconsin’s schedule (both teams and locations) has played out this year?
  4. Minnesota.  The Gophers aren’tjaw-droppingly good at any position, but they error free, fundamentally sound football.  They beat you, not themselves.  If anybody is going to steal the division on the road, it’s Jerry Kill’s bunch.

    Goldy wins the Internet for this month

  5. Nebraska.  Are the wheels falling off in Lincoln?  There is a part of me that feels 5th is too high for where the Huskers are at mentally and physically.  A repeat of last year’s Iowa game (and antics) will have Bo looking for a new job.
  6. Maryland.  A win over fellow newbie Rutgers would give Maryland a very impressive 8-4 mark in their first Big Ten season, and could signify the start of something big out east.
  7. Iowa.  Iowa’s Jekyll & Hawkeye season rolls on with a tough home loss to the hated Badgers.  They will be ready and willing to take out their frustrations on a Nebraska team that is reeling.
  8. Penn State.  It is a good thing that Penn State is already bowl eligible, because I don’t think they will win against Michigan State.
  9. Michigan.  A year ago before the Michigan-Ohio State game I said “As bad as Michigan has looked this month, I don’t see them getting blasted by their rivals.  Heck, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Wolverines pull the upset.”  That probably won’t happen, but wouldn’t be fun if Michigan wrecks Ohio State’s playoff hopes (and gets bowl eligible in the process)?
  10. Northwestern.  The stakes are high when Northwestern plays in-state rivalry Illinois this week.  The winner gets to go to a bowl game.  The loser may be conducting a coaching search.  Okay…those may not exactly be “high” stakes, but as big as a battle for 5th place in the Big Ten West can be.
  11. Illinois.  When I saw the Fighting Illini play in person back in September, I would have said it will take two or more years for that program to get to six wins.  But they can go bowling with a win over Northwestern.  Give credit for the improvement this team has shown.
  12. Rutgers.  I’m all for conference pride and having teams represent the B1G in bowl games, but I really hope Rutgers does not get an invite.  The six teams they have beaten so far are a combined 23-42.  Should they beat Maryland this weekend, it will be their only win over a team with a winning record.
  13. Purdue.  Yes, the Boilermakers have a head-to-head win over Illinois, but that is Purdue’s only conference win.  They haven’t been within 18 points of anybody since a 39-38 loss to Minnesota in mid-October.
  14. Indiana.  I was really, really hoping the Hoosiers would have held on for the upset over Ohio State (they led in the 3rd quarter) if for no other reason than to say that they beat the champs of the Big Ten East and SEC East.  Oh well.  But they’ll always have Mizzou…

B1G Reasons for Giving Thanks

As the name implies, Thanksgiving is a time to reflect upon all of the good things in your life and be grateful for what you have.

But what if you are a football team playing in what is widely believed to be the worst Power 5 conference in the country?  What does a team like Indiana, Michigan, or Nebraska have to be thankful for in 2014?

Glad you asked.  I believe that everybody should be able to give thanks for something – even if you sometimes have to dig a little to find anything worthy of your gratitude.

What do the schools of the Big Ten have to be thankful for this football season?  Plenty:

  • Illinois:  Remember that time you dressed up like a team that didn’t look like Illinois?  And then you played like a team that didn’t look like Illinois?  That was pretty cool.

    “Wee! Nobody knows that we suck!” (photo credit: news-gazette.com)

  • Indiana:  You may bewinless in conference play, but you still hold the league’s best non-conference win (at SEC East leading Missouri)

    Dear ESPN, Kindly put this in your SEC bias and smoke it.

  • Iowa:  Forbes says you can now afford to fire Kirk Ferentz!

    My Iowa-born Mom is starting to regret her tattoo. (photo credit: cbssports.com)

  • Maryland:  Jim Delany’s check of bailout money did not bounce.  Now you can buy more hideously ugly uniforms to demonstrate the pride you have in your state!

    Maryland, we wear these to honor you. (photo credit: lostlettermen.com)

  • Michigan:  After failing with Rich Rod and BradyHoke, surely the third time will be the charm, right?  Right?

    Troll so hard (image courtesy elevenwarriors.com)

  • Michigan State:  The continued employment of BradyHoke is more than enough for Spartan fans.

    If I were a Spartan, this would be my PC background.  Kudos to car-memes.com for this one.

  • Minnesota:  Your coaching staff eats ice cream bars on the sideline of a frigid, snowy game without giving a single ____ what you think.

    “I wanted a Blizzard, not a damn Dilly Bar” (photo credit: athlonsports.com)

  • Nebraska:  You never have to face Melvin Gordon again.  And depending on if you are aBo-leaver or aBo-liever, you may be thankful forPelini’s jobstatus as of this weekend.

    “I’m sorry I got you fired, Angry Coach” (photo credit: AP)

  • Northwestern:  Nobody really has very high expectations for you, so it’s tough to ever have a “down” year.  Plus, Chick-fil-A for everyone!

    Nice touch with the Wildcat purple suit, KD (image credit dailycaller.com)

  • Ohio State:  The odds are good that Urban Meyer won’t have to shame eat an entire Papa John’s pizza after this year’s Big Ten Championship.

    “No garlic butter?!? Why does everything bad happen to me??” (photo credit: USA Today)

  • Penn State:  Despite the best efforts of the NCAA and Big Ten refs to screw you over, you can now go to a crappy bowl game (where refs from another conference will probably try to screw you over).

    B1G refs be like “Meh, close enough”.  (image credit: @Pauly_G220)

  • Purdue:  Be very, very thankful that this guy went to Indiana instead of Purdue.  Plus – you still have that really big drum, which is kinda neat in a totally Purdue sort of way.

    The bigger the drum, the bigger the punchline (photo credit: purdue.edu)

  • Rutgers:  Instead of getting beat by Houston,Cincy,UCF,andUConn, you now get blown out by Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Nebraska!  Welcome to theB1G time!

    If you want to be taken seriously when joining a prestigious academic conference, don’t treat your promotional copy like a 2 am text message (image credit: collegiatestadiums.com)

  • Wisconsin:  For the next 300+ days, nobody can take away your FREEDOM!!! – even if they wanted that generic, ugly ass trophy.

    It’s never good when you need five guys to lift the trophy (photo credit: news.wisc.edu)

  • And a bonus for the B1G Boss Man himself, Jim Delany:  Adding Maryland and Rutgers has TOTALLY made the conference stronger and more exciting.  The reputation of the conference is an all time high.

    Wait? That’s NOT Jim Delany? The eyebrows always fool me (image credit: muppet.wikia.com)

Iowa? Nebraska’s Rival? That’s Debatable.

Author’s note:  I came across a blog post entitled “Nebraska, You Have A Rival And It’s Not Up For Debate” on the site Know It All Football today.  In the piece, author J.P. Scott lays out his case for Iowa now truly being Nebraska’s rival.  

I respectfully disagree.

Instead of a doing a full rebuttal, I thought it would be easier to go line by line through Mr. Scott’s piece, which I am reprinting below.  To reduce any confusion, any words in italics are my own.  Everything else belongs to Mr. Scott / Know It All Football.

*   *   *

There are certain things you just don’t see often in life. One of those things is another team carrying trophy off the football field at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska after defeating the Cornhuskers.

This is technically true, albeit very misleading.  

Nebraska has only been in the Big 10 for three years, and in that time, Iowa is just the third B1G team to win in Lincoln.  Prior to that?  Nebraska was in the Big XII, where conference foes didn’t exactly have a ton of success in Lincoln.  Nebraska won 77% of their conference home games between 1996 – 2010 – and that includes the inglorious end of the Frank Solich era and the forgettable period known as Bill Callahan.  Before that?  Nebraska was in the Big 8 under Tom Osborne, so the winning percentage against conference foes at home would be even higher.

But let’s not forget the biggest reason you have never seen another team carrying a trophy off the Memorial Stadium turf in your lifetime:  Nebraska has never been involved in a Big Ten style trophy game.  Yes, technically, NU and Mizzou played for a victory bell, but that series never included the sprinting to the opposite sideline exchange like you see with many Big Ten trophy games.  For all I know, the bell was delivered to the winning team via Fed Ex a few days after the game.

Bottom line: it is rare to see a team running off with a trophy when there was never one to play for.

That’s exactly what happened on Black Friday. What made that scene different was the fact that it was a group of Iowa Hawkeye football players carrying that trophy. It was the 13th time in history that the Hawkeyes had bested the Huskers in 44 tries and the first win in the three-year history of Nebraska’s participation as a member of the Big Ten Conference.

Wow. 13 wins in 44 tries.  By that logic, Nebraska should have had a fierce rivalry with Texas Tech (four wins in eleven games), but I guarantee that nobody on either side considered that a “rivalry”.

Earlier in the week, a local Omaha sports talk radio show asked a question on Facebook in regard to who Nebraska’s Black Friday rivalry game should be played against — Iowa or Wisconsin. A surprisingly large number of Nebraska fans, for whatever reason, chose Wisconsin.

I’ll get into the “Why Wisconsin” reasons below, but a big reason for why I would have voted Wisconsin?  They want to be there.  When Nebraska was entering the B1G, Wisconsin lobbied to have a trophy game with Nebraska.  Iowa?  Kirk Ferentz spent most of the last week telling anybody who would listen how he doesn’t want to play on Black Friday.  Nebraskans would rather foster a rivalry with somebody who wants to be there under the spotlight.

The fact that this is even a question and Wisconsin is a valid answer baffles me. I’ve lived in Omaha for over a decade. As I carry on about my business throughout the Omaha-Council Bluffs, Iowa metro (which happens to the largest metro to sit literally on the border of any two Big Ten states), I see people every day wearing Husker red. I also see, more than any other team, college or pro, Iowa Hawkeye fans.

Yes, Omaha is the biggest city in the state and it has a large (and seemingly growing) Hawkeye community, but let’s not forget that there is another 450 miles of Nebraska west of Omaha, spanning two time zones.  Get west of Kearney – heck, even Lincoln – and you’re likely to see more Wyoming gear that Hawkeye garb.  But nobody considers the Pokes to be a rival.

Wisconsin? The only sign of Wisconsin I’ve seen around these parts was at a local Wal-Mart. I was rooting through some Husker gear when I came across a lunchbox that had “Huskers” painted onto one side and the Wisconsin “W” misprinted on the other. I suppose this is a simple and common factory mishap, considering the two teams have the same colors and same uniforms sans the helmet. Outside of the uniform similarities, the only other Wisconsin/Nebraska connection I can make out is Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin’s athletic director and former coach — who happens to be a Nebraska alum.

That’s it? That’s what constitutes a rival? I don’t think so.

The logic behind a NU-Wisky rivalry is based on the many similarities between the teams (Alvarez modeling everything in his program – right down to the uniforms – after Nebraska, their records of success, their emphasis on run-heavy o6ffenses powered by mammoth home-grown linemen, and much more).  A Husker v. Badger rivalry would be like the two brothers a year apart in school squaring off for dominance.

Where I come from, some kid who sits behind you and flicks your ears, looking for a fight is a rival.  Ah yes, we call that the “Kansas State model”.  Someone who constantly roots for you to fail and celebrates your failures like their own victories is a rival.  The “Big XII North model”.  Someone who comes into your back yard and steals the finest vegetables from your garden is a rival.  Thieves are my rival?  I’m getting confused here.  And finally, someone who beats you, whether it’s once or every time, at the one thing you are supposed to be better than they are at — that’s a rival. To make matters worse, after they beat you, they just walk next door to their own house, close the door, shoot you a quick middle finger from the window and laugh as they close the blinds.

So let me see if I have the rivalry formula straight:

Win (every time or once in a generation) + geographic proximity = rivalry?

By that logic, Florida has a new rival:  Georgia Southern.  Not only did the Eagles just beat the Gators 26-20, but their campuses are only separated by 250 miles – which is almost an hour close than the Nebraska and Iowa campuses.

That’s what Iowa has been doing to Nebraska for decades and continued to do on Saturday. The Iowa Hawkeyes are your rival, Nebraska. There’s no avoiding or denying it.

Decades?  Were Iowa fans really getting their jollies back in the 1980s because Nebraska was losing Orange Bowls?  For your sake, I hope that is not the case.

The fact that you don’t think so and continue to think you are above Iowa only strengthens it. The fact that Iowa smack-talk infuriates you like it does only legitimizes it.

The reason Iowa smack-talk infuriates Husker fans?  Up until Friday, there was no basis for it unless you were really hanging on to that win in 1981 – the last one before Friday’s victory.

The fact that you don’t have another true, natural rivalry decides it.

So since Nebraska does not currently have a true, natural rivalry, we’re stuck with Iowa as a default?   P.S. – for the time being,  we’ll conveniently choose to ignore the side debate on if the Nebraska – Iowa “rivalry” is “natural” or was manufactured by Jim Delaney.

It’s rare that any store in eastern Nebraska sells only Husker garb. Most, whether jewelry stores, sporting goods stores, arts and crafts stores or department stores sell both Husker and Hawkeye merchandise. There is a reason for this. Iowa fans roll deep in eastern Nebraska. Their numbers are strong, right here in your back yard, and they grow stronger by the day.

Hawkeye fans aren’t afraid of the Husker mystique. They sport their colors proudly in the face of you —  in the back yard of the self-proclaimed greatest fans in college football — without fear, seemingly waiting for you to react.

Part of the whole “Greatest Fans” thing is being respectful to opposing fans in our house – even if they are, as you appear to say, baiting us for a response.

And you do. You react by noticing. You sneer. You scowl. You stare, wondering how they have the gall to walk around Henry Doorly Zoo or the Old Market, sporting that black and gold trash. It angers you, even if only for a moment.

You don’t feel that way about Wisconsin. The last time you felt that way, it was Oklahoma.

Two things here.  1) We would feel that way about Wisconsin, but since we share color schemes and apparel providers (adidas) Badger gear blends in much more than black and gold.  2) Since Oklahoma, Husker fans have not enjoyed seeing people wearing the gear of Kansas State, Colorado, Missouri, and Texas.  

Oklahoma has moved on. Penn State screwed you 30 years ago. Mizzou has bigger fish to fry. Colorado is a bottom feeder in the PAC 12. Wisconsin only acknowledges your existence during the week you play them.

Penn State?  That cross-over game was done with good intentions (the programs of Osborne and Paterno squaring off every year), but nobody will miss it when the B1G goes to the East/West divisions in 2014.  Mizzou?  That rivalry was showing signs of taking off, but aside from the NU’s on-field dominance we all know that Nebraska won be getting the thing that Mizzou coveted most:  the Big 10 invite.  

Colorado is the interesting case, and most apt comparison for Iowa.  Border schools who lack Nebraska’s pedigree, appear to get a kick out of sticking it to Husker fans whenever possible, black and gold color scheme.  We’ll see if Iowa can match CU’s run as a national power which pushed the NU-CU rivalry to it’s peak or if Iowa fans care to match the reputation of Colorado fans for being Grade A jerks.  Regardless, when Iowa is a year removed from 4-8, calling another team a “bottom feeder” is…um…interesting.

But Iowa — Iowa is a different animal. Iowa is sitting in your front yard, throwing rocks at your house 365 days a year. They watch you through your window and laugh as you celebrate accomplishments from 20 years ago.

Man, you make Iowa sound like a bunch of creeper pricks.  Given the choice, I’ll celebrate the greatest team in college football history (the 1995 Huskers, of course) over the leering vandalism of Hawkeye fans (that must be what a school does when they don’t have any widely recognized national championships of their own).

For the last two years, you shoved them away and celebrated victory and supremacy. But this year, you walked outside and got stomped out in your own front yard. And now, for another calendar year, you have to look at those black and gold-clad fans in your back yard and keep your mouth shut when they walk by and whisper one word in your ear: SCOREBOARD.

Yep, Iowa earned the right to say “Scoreboard” for the next year.  Good on them.  Without getting into the land of sour grapes and third-string quarterbacks, I would hope most reasonable Hawkeye fans would observe the glaring examples of coaching malpractice that occurred in that game.  A fake punt after a time out from your own 30?  That is Cyclone-level stupidity.

Speaking of the Clones, let’s discuss another reason why Husker fans have not embraced the Hawkeyes as their rival.  In our eyes, between Iowa State, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, we question if Iowa has time (or hatred) for another rival?  

Admittedly, we Huskers are a proud bunch (some would say vain and egotistical, but that’s a separate conversation too), but I’ll be honest with you – we feel our resume (five titles, three Heismans, top five all-time in wins) should warrant a rival that is either equal in stature (like Oklahoma) or gives us their full hatred for 365 days (Colorado).  Is living down the block enough for a rivalry if you spend a good portion of your time hating the Clones and Gophers and discussing pig statues with Minnesota?  I’m not so sure.

Iowa is your rival, Nebraska. It’s been a long time coming. It’s time to own it.

In conclusion, I’m not saying that Nebraska cannot become rivals, but I am definitely saying they are not there yet.  A single win in the last six meetings does not make a rivalry.  The first road win in 70 years does not make a rivalry.  

I think I speak for most Husker fans in saying that we would love to have a true rivalry game with enough hatred and bad feelings to last the entire year.  We have never really known that, as the Oklahoma rivalry was based more on mutual respect than a deep hatred.  From what I’ve seen of the Big 10, Iowa is definitely a top competitor for the job (along with Wisconsin).  But if Iowa wants to make it official, a few things need to happen:

  • Embrace the Black Friday time slot.  That is a signature date for Nebraska football with several program-shaping wins and losses occurring on that date.  It baffles me that Ferentz would shy away from a national showcase game – and especially one that he could easily brand as a major Iowa holiday (“Black Friday” writes itself, no?).
  • Get an upset win.  The raw numbers of the series (a 28-13-2 NU advantage) are bad enough, but consider than of those 13 Iowa wins, a grand total of zero game against a Nebraska team ranked in the Top 20/25 (Iowa is 0 for 10 when Nebraska is ranked – CORRECTION:  1-9, I omitted the 1981 Iowa victory over #7 Nebraska).  It doesn’t help that Iowa has never been ranked for this game.
  • Screw us over.  You want to get our attention?  Do something that makes some noise.  Almost getting Pelini fired was a good start (even if it would have endeared you to a good chunk of the fan base).  Have Ferentz say something negative about Nebraska at media days next August.  Get a win that keeps Nebraska from a division title.  Have a Hawkeye involved in a controversial play that gets brought up for decades.  That sort of thing.
  • Just win.  One win in six tries won’t do it.  Two wins in seven tries probably won’t do it either.  Splitting a decade 5-5 or 6-4 would definitely go a long way towards getting this rivalry off the ground.
  • Drop the Heroes Game name and bland trophy.  When Nebraska signed up for the Big Ten, we were envisioning rivalry games with cool names (Floyd of Rosedale) and odd-ball trophies (spittoons, buckets, axes, etc.).  I don’t think many Nebraskans were blown away by the generically bland concept of The Heroes Game (sponsored by Hy-Vee!) with its boring and nondescript trophy.  Switch it to an ear of corn, an old tractor, or something else that gives personality and uniqueness to this game.

Make these things happen and we’ll look forward to dominating you in this rivalry for years to come.  If not, enjoy watching us and Wisconsin battle for the West Division title while you dine on turkey leftovers.

Love, 

Husker Nation

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