WHERE WE'VE BEEN
- SPAM - 2021 Pre-Season Preview
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- SPAM - 2021 - Week 4 Preview
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- SPAM - 2021 - Week 7 Preview
- SPAM - 2021 - Week 8 Preview
- SPAM - 2021 - Week 9 Preview
Hawkeye fans, it's time for the Come to Jesus talk I have been dreading for about a month now.
But first, a story. This year, my bride and I kicked off what will be a decade-plus-long project: attending one Iowa road game each year until we've been to every Big 10 venue. We are starting close to home and spreading out, but also picking up those venues Iowa rarely plays at, like Ohio State, when they're on the schedule. We began this year with Camp Randall for a few reasons.
Unlike most Iowa fans, I like Wisconsin football. I lived in Milwaukee for a few years and fell in love with the state. I'm a Packers shareholder now and through sheer happenstance, my oldest son, an Iowa graduate, now lives in Madison. I've got a soft spot for Wisconsin. I've never been to Camp Randall and I've heard consistently from other Iowa fans, other Big 10 fans, and media personalities, that it's one of the loudest, most electric, most insane game day environments.
It was pretty disappointing. The stadium is not especially loud and it certainly was not intimidating. Honestly, it felt like being at a high school game in terms of overall fan energy and disposition. I don't say that lightly. I've been to Lambeau Field, too, for a Monday Night Football game, and it also has the vibe and tenor of a high school game. Everybody knows each other, they've all had the same seats together for sometimes decades, and other than one extremely loudmouthed idiot a few rows behind me (discussed below), the most high-energy people around us were Iowa fans.
The loudest the stadium got during the game was on Iowa's 4th and 1 fullback dive, and I'd say that volume was somewhere around 75% of Kinnick on a routine third down. The stadium was maybe a quarter empty for much of the first half. The student section was almost completely empty until the 2nd quarter, and the opposite end zone was maybe half or 2/3 full the entire game? The whole place just felt flat, lifeless, and disinterested.
Except this one guy. About 4 rows behind me, he kept yelling, "C'mon boys!" over and over, and at one point after Yet Another Sack, yelled, "So where's this fucking world-beater center they're supposed to have, huh?" Apparently our one good O-lineman sucks unless he can block Wisconsin's entire defense by himself? But I kept my mouth shut. At least that guy had some heart, just no brains to go with it.
It was clear to me at half time that Iowa was going to lose and I told my wife I wanted to stay through at least Jump Around to experience that, and if the game wasn't within a score at that point, we'd take off. We got to about 6 seconds before the end of the third quarter when a Wisconsin player was badly hurt and taken out by ambulance in a prolonged injury timeout. Then the ref blew the whistle to start the clock and run off the last few seconds, we went to commercial, and I loaded up my phone, went live on Facebook in anticipation, and waited for the legendary Jump Around experience.
It was a non-event. Blah. They played the song, people jumped, it was kind fun to watch for a little bit, it lasted about a minute, and then they started the game. I've heard countless people describe how "rockin" the stadium is, figuratively and literally, but this was a big flat nothingburger. After "Jump Around," an Iowa fan right behind me muttered, "That's it?" My thoughts exactly. I'm not sure what I expected, but I don't get what all the fuss is about this being some amazing tradition.
I almost didn't mention this because I'm sure it'll come across as sour grapes, but I assure you, it isn't. I can separate experience from outcome. I thoroughly enjoyed the Rose Bowl, in which we got our asses handed to us. Iowa-Penn State 2017 is one of the best games I've ever been to, even though Iowa lost. I'm chalking my experience up to a combination of factors - where we were sitting, which was deep in the lower bowl near the Wisconsin bench, and that the game itself was basically out of hand in the first half and Iowa was never much of a threat, so there wasn't much tension or much to get pumped up about. I'm guessing our gameday experience was aberration.
The only thing I want to briefly mention is Wisconsin fans. Wisconsin fans are frequently criticized on various Big 10 blogs as being among the conferences' worst behaved towards visiting fans. I wouldn't say they were nice to us, but I didn't think we were treated any worse than one might expect while visiting an away venue. We were almost completely ignored by the Wisconsin fans until the second half, but then the serial heckling began. We experienced three incidents. All were, in my opinion, pretty mild, the kind of thing I'd expect basically anywhere where you have drunk fans.
One was directed to my wife when she was going to the restroom and I wasn't around. She was hassled by three Wisconsin fans, which I found particularly distasteful - you don't gang up 3-on-1 against a woman by herself in a strange place. You just don't. Fortunately, my wife can handle her business and wasn't bothered by it. We were also heckled and yelled at as we left the stadium, and then again on the street after the game. Some F-bombs and colorful language, but ultimately nothing to get in a twist over. I think it's in poor taste and I don't like it when Iowa fans do it, either, but I've reached Get Off My Lawn age, so what do I know.
After the game, we got to the craft beer place that Mas Casa suggested, Karben4, and I settled in with some beers. I stayed off Twitter (mostly), checked some scores, and just enjoyed a little time out with my wife and some craft beer in a new town. As we were wrapping up, a Wisconsin fan came up to us and thanked us for making the trip to Madison, said he hoped we enjoyed our stay even though the game was shitty for us, and told me he'd like to buy us a round both to salve our wounds and just to make our time in Madison a little better.
I was genuinely touched, shook his hand, thanked him, told him we had a lovely time. I'd had enough at that point so I didn't take him up on it, but this small gesture of basic decency erased a little bit of the sting. I know when Iowa beats a visiting team, I always feel bad for the opposing fans who made the trip only to see their team lose, and I want them to leave Iowa City feeling like they still got to experience something special, and I go out of my way to try to make them feel welcome and appreciated. I chose to measure Madison by this man's thoughtful kindness more so than the boorish behavior of its drunken students.
As for the game itself, Wisconsin's uncanny ability to false start on almost every single down without consequence now has a pedigree measured in years. I could see it even from the stands. The left guard in particular moves early on almost every goddam down. NEVER gets called. I don't get it. Otherwise, I'm avoiding talking about the actual game because I've been warning you for weeks that this was coming.
Now it's here, and it's not leaving. Iowa is #123 in total offense (out of 130 teams). The Hawkeyes are worse than Kansas. Worse than Vanderbilt. Worse than Indiana. Worse than Illinois. Worse than Rutgers. Worse than Arizona. We're fortunate to be bowl-eligible, because it's possible that this team might not win another game. If you've been following the Sustainability Index concept I'm working on, where we look at yards gains compared to yards available, Iowa is getting even worse. The Hawkeyes have now gained just 2,332 yards out of the 6,928 possible yards available this season, for a Sustainability Index of 33.7%. I haven't looked at every FBS team on this stat yet, but I haven't found another team that is below 40%.
I don't want to over-react to Purdue and Wisconsin. Those are two VERY good defenses. Wisconsin is #1 in the country in total defense (yes, ahead of Georgia), and Purdue is #20. Northwestern is #100, Illinois is in the 80s, and Nebraska is in the high 40s. The schedule will soften up a bit on defense. But, Minnesota now stands atop the B1G West, and they have the nation's #14 total defense.
Don't get your hopes up.
LOOKING AHEAD TO WEEK 10 - IOWA SEASON PROJECTION UPDATE
|@Iowa State||-4.3||W (2-0)|
|Kent State||9.6||W (3-0)|
|Colorado State||5.7||W (4-0)|
|Penn State||2.2||W (6-0)|
Division Championship Odds
Big 10 West
Interestingly, Wisconsin's heads-up win over Iowa still doesn't move them ahead of the Hawkeyes yet due to how the chances in the remaining schedules shake out. Basically, SPAM thinks Wisconsin sucks, too, and that the odds are good that Wisconsin finishes with one more loss than Iowa does, making this heads-up win irrelevant. But, regardless, the Division is now Minnesota's to lose. I just threw up in my mouth a little.
I told you last week that a lot of streaks stand poised to come to an ugly, gut-wrenching end this year, including Iowa's long streaks against both Minnesota and Nebraska. Be prepared, folks. I've been watching this data move all year and I'm just telling you now, this is going to end like 2014.
Big 10 East
- Michigan over Michigan State by 3.9
- Maryland over Indiana by 5.8
- Ohio State over Penn State by 15.2
- Nebraska over Purdue by 4.8
- Minnesota over Northwestern by 4.0
- Iowa over Wisconsin by 1.9
- Minnesota over Illinois by 9.7
- Iowa over Northwestern by 5.1
- Michigan State over Purdue by 2.0
- Wisconsin over Rutgers by 0.4
- Penn State over Maryland by 3.6
- Michigan over Indiana by 17.9
- Ohio State over Nebraska by 9.6