WHERE WE'VE BEEN
WEEK 13 B1G ACTION (RECAP)
If you read my "column" here regularly, you know that both SPAM and I were pretty firmly convinced that Nebraska would win this game. And, at the start of the 4th quarter, those grim prognostications were threatening to come true.
But then Nebraska found a way to lose. The minute Iowa blocked that punt, I knew Iowa would win. That block was a microcosm of Nebraska's season. The execution was bad and left room for an Iowa rusher with uncharacteristic edge speed to get a hand on the ball. That was a bad special teams play by Nebraska.
But then the ball turned into pop fly drill and fell right into the arms of an Iowa defender streaking to the end zone. That part is just pure bad luck for the Cornhuskers. That ball could have gone anywhere. I mean, that play is almost certainly a disaster for them regardless, but recall that Iowa had a similarly bad special teams gaffe vs. Minnesota, turning the ball over to the gophers on downs. The Iowa defense held Minnesota to a field goal. Nebraska gave up the touchdown.
But the difference is in the response. Iowa never lost its resolve and went on to win that game. And that should not have been the end of the game for Nebraska. They had thoroughly outplayed Iowa for more than three quarters and were still in the lead and about to get the ball back. The game was still in their control. And they didn't quit. But they did pucker.
Or, more specifically, head coach Scott Frost puckered. He said so in the post-game comments, where we identified that blocked punt as the turning point. How curious a comment. Nebraska was still winning at that time and there was no reason to believe Iowa was going to hold Nebraska to 0 more points and somehow score a touchdown. But if Frost thought the game was turning on that play, it sure explains what we saw after.
Coaching a football team is like riding a horse. A horse feels the emotional state of the rider. It feels your fear, your confidence, your hesitation, whatever it is that's between your ears, and it responds in kind. That's what happened here. I think Coach Frost's belief in his team's ability to hold on and win that game wavered on that play, and it rippled across the sideline. They probably didn't even realize it. Logic says, "We're still winning and now we can go put the game away." But your head can't change what your heart feels, and it came as no surprise to me that Nebraska quickly unraveled after that.
The fumble. The safety. The Goodson run. It all snowballed so fast. But the script was written with that blocked punt. The outcome was inevitable. It was written all over the Nebraska sideline. Iowa's attitude was, "We're gonna find a way to beat these guys." Nebraska's was, "How does it happen this week?"
It's a self-fulfilling prophecy.
There will be a lot of soul-searching in Lincoln over the next 9 months over how in the hell a team with Top 25 stats across the board (well, except special teams) lost 9 games. What they've got going on there is basically Moribund Iowa. The good news for Cornhusker Nation is that there is a cure. But, I'll save that for a future post.
Elsewhere in the Big 10, the Michigan Wolverines sat on Ohio State's head and farted for three hours. This would be far less interesting to me if the Minnesota Golden Gophers hadn't basically done the same thing to Wisconsin a few hours later in the second act of an epic day of college football that reaffirmed to us all that we are right to love this stupid game so much. For the record, SPAM predicted a Gopher win, though I certainly didn't believe it. In gratitude for the team that hates Iowa putting Iowa into the championship game, I've made this promise:
And I will stick to it.
LOOKING AHEAD TO WEEK 14 - IOWA SEASON PROJECTION UPDATE
Game by Game
Last week I wrote:
Here we are in rather familiar territory.
The many branches of the spiderverse have been reduced to two.
I was only half-right. Here we are in rather unfamiliar territory, though two branches do indeed remain.
Almost every bounce that could have gone Iowa's way this year has done so. This seems to happen every six years.
The last time this happened, it was 2015, but Iowa's schedule of microwave gas station burritos for opponents left question marks lingering over the Hawkeyes' 12-0 unblemished record that year. Weirdly, it wasn't until Iowa lost the heartbreaker to Michigan State in the Big 10 Championship game that the team got any respect, finally notching that elusive quality loss that all the more respected programs had. But then Michigan State got boatraced by Alabama and won like 3 games the next year, and Iowa got boatraced by Stanford in the Rose Bowl, and it turned out that the Big 10 Championship Game proved only that sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.
Six years before that was 2009, when Iowa had (stop me if this sounds familiar) a top-10 scoring defense weighed down by a bottom-25% offense. It didn't matter because Iowa got paired up Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl. Georgia Tech was almost the only triple-option team at the time, and Iowa had probably the only living defensive coordinator who knew how to beat it. The Hawkeyes beat the ACC-Champion Yellow Jackets in the Orange Bowl to get their first NY6-level bowl win since the 1950s. Almost every bounce went Iowa's way that year. The two blocked field goals to beat UNI. Nailbiters vs. Michigan and Arkansas State. The MSU "Seven Got Six." The Halloween game against Indiana. The only bad bounce Iowa got that year was Ricky Stanzi's injury.
And of course, six years before that, Iowa was the midst of a run of three straight 10-win seasons for the Hawkeyes with Big 10 Championships on either side.
So, we can probably expect this to be the last really good reason until 2027, at which point we'll probably still be talking about whether Kirk Ferentz is going to retire. But for now, let's live for now.
This is not a great Iowa team. It's probably the worst overall team of the last five years. That's at least debatable. But here we are. Look, Michigan is better ok? More talented, tougher schedule, better wins. They are favored, they should be favored, and they should win. But Iowa has practically made an art form out of neutralizing talent disadvantages and upsetting better competition not named Wisconsin. The Hawkeyes are 6-3 against top 5 teams over the last five-ish seasons, including the 2016 upset of #2 Michigan. Granted, that was a Kinnick Night Game. Voodoo magic and all. This won't be. But SPAM says the Hawkeyes have a puncher's chance.
And consider this: if Iowa beats Michigan, they will be the Big 10 Champions, and they will play in the Rose Bowl against the PAC-12 Champion, who is not going to the playoff. With the college football playoff structure changing, this is probably Iowa's last chance to win a Rose Bowl - a real Rose Bowl - Big 10 champ vs. PAC 10 champ. Getting to this game is harder than it has ever been and more often than not it won't be a traditional Rose Bowl matchup. On top of that, Iowa's opponent this year would be either Oregon or Utah. While Oregon would present challenges, Utah is the Iowa of the PAC 12.
My point is that the Rose Bowl is winnable this year, especially if Utah wins the Pac 12, and this may very well be the final chance Iowa gets to win a traditional Rose Bowl. If not now, then when?
Hold on to that hope for one more week and just enjoy it. These opportunities are few and far between.
Division Championship Odds
Big 10 West - Iowa 100%
Big 10 East - Michigan 100%
Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin have won every Big 10 championship since 2004. You know who won in 2004?
Iowa and Michigan.
Last week, SPAM projected:
- PSU over MSU by 0.3 (MISS)
- Rutgers over MD by 4.6 (MISS)
- Purdue over IN by 10.2 (HIT)
- IL over NW by 4.5 (HIT)
- MN over Wisconsin by 0.2 (HIT)
- Nebraska over IA by 0.2 (MISS)
- Ohio State over MI by 3.3 (MISS)
SPAM had a not great week. Do you care? I don't. SPAM was right about the games that mattered most to us.
Unless otherwise expressly indicated by BHGP editors, this FanPost is strictly the viewpoint of the author and is not endorsed by BHGP in any way.