Nebraska never got closer than a touchdown as the Hawkeyes laid the wood on the Cornhuskers with a three-touchdown margin of victory, 38-17. This game is an instant Hawkeye classic, a cathartic asskicking for which Iowa fans have been waiting more than thirty years. The schadenfreude is divine, though you have to read between the lines to find the humiliation, as the Husker faithful are awash in denial, excuses, explanations, and outright delusions.
One Cornhusker fan actually quoted to me the overall series history with Iowa as "proof" of -- of what? I honestly don't know. These teams have played less than 10 times in my lifetime, and more than half of those games were not played in this century. Cornhusker nation has become Faulkner's Benny Compson, psychologically incapable of addressing the present and pining impotently for an unrecoverable and near-forgotten past. The rest of the world moved on long ago.
If you follow SPAM, you know SPAM and I have had our differences over Nebraska-Iowa. Over the past five weeks, SPAM has consistently called for a Husker win, and I've consistently been confounded by it, though I thought the points were about right:
"SPAM stubbornly insists that Iowa will lose to Nebraska. It's hard to reconcile this, but I think the issue is Nebraska's offensive output and Iowa's still-nagging penchant for error. " -11/24/13
"I think SPAM has the points about right, Iowa is going to need to put up 30+ to beat Nebraska on the road." -11/18/13
"SPAM still inexplicably favors Nebraska in this game, primarily because it's in Lincoln, but the gap has narrowed a bit." -11/11/13
"I'm honestly not sure what SPAM sees in the Huskers, it has favored them over us all year long, perhaps because the game is in Lincoln." -11/4/13
"Memorial Stadium is the only thing preventing SPAM from calling this one for the Hawks." -10/28/13
SPAM called this a Husker 29-26 win, but Iowa owned Nebraska from the first quarter, wholloping our neighbor 38-17. This is, by far, SPAM's biggest whiff of the year, although the point totals were almost spot on. SPAM called for 54 points and the teams put up 55. To be fair to the Huskers, the game deserves some asterisks. Iowa started all five touchdown drives in Nebraska territory. That's a winning formula but not something we're likely to see year in and year out against Nebraska or anybody else. Further, Nebraska has been decimated with a ridiculous run of injuries. We did not catch Nebraska at its best, whereas this Iowa team has gotten better and more resilient through the year and might be playing its best football now. Maybe that's the point. While Nebraska has been treading water in the 4-loss range, it doesn't feel like a program that's going anywhere, whereas the Hawkeyes feel like a team that could get hot fast and make a run at the Rose Bowl. Shades of 2008? Let's hope so.
When this series began, I admonished Nebraska about failing to respect its opponents:
"There is something important to ... Iowa fans at stake in the game against Nebraska: [which] do[es]n't respect us ... enough to play us at our best. You [Nebraska] only play us when we're weak. When we're not, you run away. We'd forgive this, but then you point back to your victories and proclaim that your superiority is manifest and you are justified in considering [Iowa] a mere nuisance. We are here to tell you that the only characteristic of Nebraska football that is manifest in your series history with Iowa is cowardice. Well, there's nowhere to run any more when Iowa wins. ... If [you] lose, [you] suffer our ceaseless torment for a year."
Let the torment begin. Ceaselessly.
Season in Review
SPAM predicted a 7-5 regular season for Iowa and the Hawkeyes finished 8-4, a good record by historical standards at Iowa, and a record we would have considered unfathomable at the beginning of the year. SPAM has predicted total points scored to 91.19% accuracy on the year. Here were the predictions and scores from during the year, though I tinkered with the formula over time:
v. NIU / Predicted 32-29 NIU / Actual 30-27 NIU
@ISU / Predicted 30-21 IA / Actual 27-21 IA
v. WMU / Predicted 33-17 IA / Actual 53-3 IA
@ MN / Predicted 27-23 IA / Actual 23-7 IA
v. MSU / Predicted 23-19 MSU / Actual 26-14 MSU
@OSU / Predicted 37-24 OSU / Actual 34-24 OSU
v. NWU / Predicted 32-24 IA / Actual 17-10 IA
v. Wisconsin / Predicted 30-25 Wisky / Actual 28-9 Wisconsin
@Purdue / Predicted 31-19 IA / Actual 38-14 IA
v. Mich / Predicted 29-26 IA / Actual 24-21 IA
@NE / Predicted 28-26 NE / Actual 38-17 IA
That leaves only Iowa's bowl opponents to model, and the consensus projection is South Carolina in the Outback Bowl on January 1, though I have also seen an IA-MO matchup. I have dutifully plugged those two teams into the Machine and SPAM predicts Iowa to lose to either, 26-23 against SCAR and 28-23 against Mizzou.
Those seem like reasonable outcomes, but you know how Kirk Ferentz is in bowl games. Ferentz is 3-1 in Bowl games against SEC teams, with wins over Florida, South Carolina, and LSU. An unranked Ferentz team also upset a ranked Missouri team in 2010. Mizzou was in the Big 12 at the time, but if you throw them in, he's 4-1 all-time against teams currently in the SEC.
Interestingly, SPAM previously had us winning a bowl game against the majority of our projected matchups and finishing 8-5 with a post season win. However, now that Iowa's regular season may have won us up to a January 1 game, the competition is stiffer and we seem to have crossed a threshold from "teams we should beat" to "teams we shouldn't."
I kind of like that, don't you? It seems to me that Iowa's bowl history under Ferentz is full of fond memories of games we weren't supposed to win.