The University of Iowa has a booth at the Iowa State Fair every year, and at that booth they have a trophy case. At the 2010 fair, that trophy case held the Cy-Hawk Trophy, Floyd of Rosedale, the Heartland Trophy, and the Orange Bowl trophy.
Two years later, there was no case. There was no need to bring one. Iowa hadn't won a rivalry game or bowl trophy in more than a year.
Anyone who thinks these games are unimportant simply doesn't understand their significance. Not to fans, because at the end of the day we are little more than open pockets for the Athletic Department to legally pick. Not to boosters, because as the new practice facility shows, the money will always be there. Not even to the players or coaches, individually. His words and actions over the past thirteen years proves that Kirk Ferentz doesn't give a damn about the Cy-Hawk Trophy. But these things are important to the health of the program. They're important for that picture of the team carrying the trophy off the field, for the ability to walk into a recruit's house and say "We're better than them," for the enthusiasm that surrounds your team and raises it up when needed.
This is a young team -- as we've previously said, one of the youngest Ferentz has fielded at Iowa -- in desperate need of enthusiasm and positive energy and success if it is to develop. If last season was a long, cold, trophy-less winter, spring needs to be sprung, and it starts tomorrow. If the environment in the football offices is to turn, the Cy-Hawk and Floyd have to come home. The trophy case has to be refilled, one game at a time. Every trophy game on the schedule -- yes, even Nebraska -- is within reach this season, but a loss tomorrow not only buries that game but could potentially bury the rest.
Make no mistake about it: Iowa State is as good as it has been in a decade. This is a better team than the 2007 Chizik squad that beat Iowa on five field goals in Jack Three Times, and this Iowa team could well be worse. That hardly makes the game unwinnable, though, nor does it necessarily mean that this Cyclone squad is better than the Hawkeyes (at least on paper, it's certainly probable that it isn't). Furthermore, it's Cy-Hawk, and so relative squad strength is about 17th on the list of importance.
Tomorrow has the capacity to generate one heck of a game. This season has the capacity to create one heck of a team. This team has to turn away from the disappointment of 2010 and the mediocrity of 2011, and it clearly has not yet done so. The trophy case has to be refilled, and it starts tomorrow.
Go Hawks. Beat State.