Iowa and the Slow Reveal.
As OPS says at left, the stats all favor Wisconsin, and even some of the trends. If I were a betting guy, I guess I'd have to take the men in red: yes, logic suggests that we are a 6-0 underdog. But that's a portfolio theory approach to picking winners: if you bet 100 games a year, don't go looking for immaterial freaky insights and oddball quirks, and just invest in the facts, take your random walk, assume everyone regresses to the mean, and try to win 3 out of 5. It's a rational way to make money. Fortunately, I don't bet, so ...
Reasons to be cheerful?
Two semi-intangible things that matter: a) their head coach is the bloviated Bret Bielema -- and ours isn't; b) their confidence can't be too good after that fiasco last week.
More important reasons to be cheerful?
This (the second season) is when the vaunted Iowa 'get better every day' ethic starts to kick in and create separation with the league. We all know that Iowa has played well enough -- usually 2-3 quarters -- at times this year to beat anyone in the conference, with the possible exception of OSU. And I would not take Wisconsin over Penn State. Would you? Why did we go into PSU with more confidence than we are to Madison, then?
Well, because we've put together exactly one game this year with four strong quarters. I believe we won that one 35-3 on the road, and I do think ISU has a real coach and a real program again. They're not getting punked by people like Kansas and could easily be 2-0 in the Big 12, 5-1 overall. I don't think this is fanciful. Rhoads is the real deal.
Can Iowa play four quarters of good football? I think we're a 9-3 team, which is fine with me, if we can't. In years past, however, e.g., last year, we incrementally, gradually put it all together. Do we start today? I don't think the general unease in this game is so much about some inherent competitive weakness that we suffer v. Wisconsin, and rather about our mystifying capacity for the Big Screw-up and introducing into several games the Quarter (or even the Half) Without a Pulse.
And we can't forget that our coach just delivers a better game against better opponents. Why, I have no clue, but I hate playing teams like Northwestern, Arkansas State, Purdue, with this staff.
So it's all about intangibles, to me. We should be better prepared than they, and I really don't care about their run-D because Stanzi is capable of being 10x the passing QB that Pryor is. Obviously they'll force us wide and vertical just to find out if Ricky is feeling charitable today. I just don't think you can say Iowa has to run to win, because I don't think we're really a run-first team; we're a run-first team if someone wants to play us honest on D, but no one is and no one will, until Ricky plays his A game for four quarters. No one dares us to run; they dare us to throw, because they don't think they can beat us with only 7 up front.
I will get on the bandwagon (so will the entire country, incidentally) if we beat this team and, absent charity by Manzi, major cognitive dissonance by the Idiot Savant, or Tolzein playing the best game of his life, I believe we will.
Let's not be too Iowan about all this and shuffle our feet and look at the sky and rue the gods that will probably bring rain before the corn is drying in the bins before the bank calls the note and our women take the Greyhound to Chicago; let's not overlook the extraordinary. Last week we undressed Baby Jesus Forcier, and his coach, one of the primary offensive innovators of the game's last 30 years, blew every gasket and fuse in his monomaniacal brain; we were doing something right because he just flat lost control of himself. Michigan ran the ball pretty well, but their longest run was 12 yards, and I bet they do better than that against Ohio State. So in each significant game this year we have done something extraordinary. This is a game where I don't see truth in numbers. Clayborn's block and score against PSU; Moeaki just gliding into the end zone twice, a man among boys; freshman backs who don't fumble; Reiff beating out Vandervelde; DJK on 3rd and 24; our pass defense efficiency; Tarp's Sanders-like hit. Greatness is in this team. The only question is if we can show greatness for 60 minutes. We don't know. This is the season's narrative. True greatness is systematic, not anecdotal. This is Ferentz and the Slow Reveal and this is why we stare and obsess. We showed the shotgun on the wall, attentive theatre-goers; not to get all Chekhovian on you, but it was there on the wall, for a reason, back in the first act. We've enjoyed intermission, there was a little dust-up, nothing serious, last week: just a little foreshadowing. There, now, we're back in the drawing room and I see that shotgun again, still unremarked. It's there on the wall for a reason. It's time now for the fucker to go off. Go Hawks.