Revisiting Football Season Finale Options

Six weeks ago, before the college football world overdosed on crack and went completely and utterly insane and back when expansion talk was just a back-burner issue to pass the time in the long, ponderous off-season, we looked at the possibility of shaking up Iowa's end-of-the-year rivalry game.  Well, six weeks later one of those options has moved from hypothetical to actual -- and it's arguably the most juicy option of the bunch, Nebraska.

Of course, we aren't the only program giving Nebraska the once-over for that end-of-the-year slot; Barry Alvarez and Bret Bielema are leading a public campaign to make Wisconsin-Nebraska a new end-of-season tradition:

BretBielema I contacted the Big 10 office about hopefully scheduling Nebraska as a last game rival on a yearly basis. Possible starting a trophy game. 

Until Iowa and Minnesota became regular dance partners in the early '80s, Minnesota-Wisconsin was a longstanding end-of-season rivalry game; they played every year from 1933-1982.  Since then, the Badgers have entertained a grab-bag of opponents, including multiple games with Michigan State, Northwestern, and (weirdly) Hawaii.  Their push for Nebraska comes despite the fact that they have less history with the Huskers than virtually any other Big Ten school; while neighbors Minnesota and Iowa have rich and long-standing history against Nebraska (51 and 41 games, respectively), Wisconsin has played Nebraska only five times (most recently in 1974).  Among Big Ten opponents, only Northwestern, Ohio State, and Purdue have played Nebraska less.

So what's your preference on what Iowa should do?  Stick with the old familiar in Minnesota, a series that has produced plenty of good memories (especially in the Aughts)?  Embrace the new hotness with natural rival Nebraska?  Just say "fuck it" and embrace someone else entirely, like Wisconsin, Penn State, or Northwestern? Time to vote.  A deeper look at the candidates after the jump.

MINNESOTA
Series Record:
 42-59-2 (Minnesota leads)

Season Finale History: 25 meetings; Iowa holds a 16-9 advantage. They've met in the season finale in all but three of the past 25 years.

Pros
: Lots of history, especially recently -- they've played each other in eight of the past ten season finales and there have been plenty of memorable moments, like Ed Hinkel's 4-TD day in 2005, the glorious satisfaction of 55-0 in 2008, and (of course) the epic goalpost theft of 2002.  Sure, all but the de-goalposting could have happened if the game took place earlier in the season, but having them take place in the final game of the regular season does add a little juice to the proceedings.  Also, while some Minnesota fans may claim that Wisconsin is a bigger rival, they don't chant "WE HATE WISCONSIN" during totally unrelated games, do they?

Cons:
  Nothing really, unless you're just bored of seeing Iowa play Minnesota in the season finale.  A late November game in Minnesota could get chilly (though the same could be said of any other option here, too).

UPDATE: Nothing's changed here, although it's worth remembering that there's a fair amount of history here that couldn't be replicated elsewhere easily or that wouldn't be as special against Minnesota if it happened earlier in the season.  Would 55-0 be quite so memorable if it wasn't the season finale and the Gophers' last-ever game in the Metrodome?  And good luck getting enough Iowa fans into Memorial Stadium in Lincoln to stage a goalpost takedown if Iowa has another chance to clinch a Big Ten title on another school's turf.  Also worth considering: with end-of-season rivalry games moving to Thanksgiving weekend would you rather go to Lincoln or Minneapolis that weekend?

NEBRASKA 
Series Record: 12-26-3 (Nebraska leads)

Season Finale History:
 18 meetings; Nebraska holds a 13-4-1 advantage.  Remarkably, Nebraska is Iowa's second-most popular season finale opponent, although all of those encounters came prior to 1945 (the year of the last season finale meeting) and most occurred in the 1890s or 1910s.  

Pros:
 Despite the fact that the two schools who haven't played each other in a decade and have played each other only five times in the past thirty years, there's still a great deal of enmity present; chalk it up to the border rivalry that continues to fester.  In Iowa and Nebraska you have two of the most passionate and intense fanbases around, so the atmosphere at an Iowa-Nebraska game would likely be amazing.  Strong potential for national attention.

Cons:
  Tickets to Iowa-Nebraska games would be really hard to come by.  Despite the long-standing enmity, most of the history here is of the ancient variety (only six games since 1946).  

UPDATE: Well, there's certainly no shortage of interest in the series; anyone who's hung around Iowa message boards, newspapers, or this blog can attest to the interest there is in a Iowa-Nebraska series.  And if you've ever spent any time in western Iowa (which we don't recommend, but we understand may be unavoidable), you know there's a lot of intense feeling surrounding Nebraska.  If you subscribe to the theory that the end-of-season rival should be your biggest rival, bestowing that honor on Nebraska would feel a little odd, considering the lack of recent history in the series.

WISCONSIN
Series Record:
 42-41-2 (Iowa leads)

Season Finale History: 3 meetings; Iowa holds a 2-1 edge.  They last met in a season finale in 2004, which wasa rather memorable game.

Pros: Another border rival and one of the closest rivalries in the Big Ten.  Sticking it to Badger fans never really gets old.  The atmosphere at Iowa-Wisconsin games is often pretty electric, since you have two of the more rabid (and well-lubricated) fanbases in the Big Ten; toss in some bowl or conference title implications, and things could get really intense.

Cons:  Harder to get tickets at Wisconsin than it is at Minnesota.  Despite the long-standing nature of the rivalry (Minnesota remains the only team Iowa's played more than Wisco), it doesn't always feel particularly heated, although as with many things rivalry-based, that may depend heavily on one's perspective.

UPDATE: Nothing's changed here.  And, to be fair, it's hard to envision a scenario in which Iowa-Wisconsin would become an end-of-season rivalry in the new Big Ten, unless Minnesota somehow got hold of the end-of-season rivalry with Nebraska.  But the points remain: this is an incredibly close and competitive rivalry and one that's seen plenty of entertaining games in recent years.  

PENN STATE 
Series Record: 11-11

Season Finale History:
 n/a

Pros:
 The Penn State series has produced some of the most exciting and momentous wins and moments of the Ferentz Era at Iowa, like the 42-35 rollercoaster win in 20026-4 and the FU safety in 2004Daniel Murray and the incredible comeback win in 2008, or Adrian Clayborn's rain-soaked punt block in 2009.  Could attract national spotlight if both teams are vying for a conference title or BCS bowl berth.

Cons:
 No more primetime games if the game gets moved to November.  A late-season loss (hey, it could happen) could be especially damaging to bowl or title aspirations.  Trekking to Happy Valley (or vice versa) would be a pain in the ass during Thanksgiving weekend.  Not a protected rival.

UPDATE: Still a dark horse contender, but perhaps one worth remembering anyway.  There were some corkers in this series in the Aughts.

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