I probably should have remembered how godawful the Nebraska defense was before I suggested we buy boots of beer for every Hawkeye touchdown on Black Friday.
By the time the third quarter ended, our table at the Bier Stube was decidedly bleary eyed and boisterous as Iowa kept the hammer down, steamrolling Lil’ Nebby even worse than the year prior.
In this space after the 2016 season finale I remarked on Nebraska fans’ amazing hubris in the face of the reality that they cheer for an objectively bad team:
Nebraska continues to search for an identity and can’t quite figure out why it doesn’t dominate the way it used to. Iowa, on the other hand, has a basic blue collar identity and is just going to keep grinding to remain competitive in the conference and nationally.
I look forward to the day our reluctant rival realizes that is its only path back to greatness as well. It should make for a much more competitive series.
I guess that’s a lesson unlearned, although the firing of Mike Riley is a signal that the Cornhuskers will try once again to find a magic bullet. Honestly, though, I’m not too afraid of what they come up with.
Think about this – did anyone in 1980 fear the second-coming of the mighty Minnesota Gopher juggernaut that capped off that program’s seventh national championship in 1960? I was 10 and already attending Big 10 games in Madison and Iowa City and never heard a peep about the resurrection of the Gopher dynasty.
Yet, here we are – 20 years removed from Nebraska’s last national championship (it should also be noted they only got five of them to Minnesota’s seven) – and the writers and fans in Omaha, Lincoln and parts more wind-blown are sure Scott Frost will lead them back to the promised land.
Until such time as Nebraska realizes it is no better than Iowa, Wisconsin or Northwestern, I have trouble ginning up much concern.
As for Iowa and its workmanlike approach to competitive football, I think 2017 is going to go down as one of the more incongruous seasons in Hawkeye history. If you told me before the game one kickoff that Iowa would retain three of four rivalry trophies, roll Ohio State by 31 points and punk Nebraska in Lincoln 56-14, I’d presume it was one of Kirk Ferentz’s best teams ever.
That clearly is not the case, though.
The biggest issue is the Hawkeye’s offensive inconsistency. Against Iowa State, Ohio State and Nebraska, the O looked like world-beaters with a road-grading running game and just enough big play capability in the passing game to score quick strikes. Against much of the rest of the schedule, though, the offense looked incapable of getting out of its own way. And in the Wisconsin and Purdue games especially, it seemed like no one had any idea how to execute basic blocking.
Hopefully, we can attribute the stop-and-start nature of the offense to breaking in a rookie offensive coordinator, first-year starting quarterback and a bunch of young faces at wide receiver, tight end and offensive line.
What’s interesting to me is that the 2017 season perfectly encapsulates the Kirk Ferentz era at Iowa, for better and for worse. The peaks (ham-blasting the mighty Buckeyes, humiliating the cocky Cornhuskers, ripping out the heart of hopeful Iowa State) were exhilaratingly high. Yet the lows (shooting itself in the foot over-and-over in East Lansing and Evanston, mustering a measly 66 yards against Wisconsin, sending fans home early and angry on senior day against a very mediocre Purdue team) were depressingly low.
Plug in 2002, 2004 and 2015 as the Iowa State, Nebraska and Ohio State games this year and 2000, 2006, 2007 and 2012 as Wisconsin, Northwestern, Michigan State and Purdue and you will see exactly what I mean.
Thrilling peaks, terrifying valleys, wildly unpredictable – that’s football, under Ferentz.
But hey, at least we know who we are. Iowa is going to work hard and reward its fans with wild rides.
Sitting at home, finishing up Thanksgiving leftovers and waiting to see what your bowl destination is going to be is a lot better than hoping and praying that the next coach you lure in will finally leave you satisfied.
Good luck with that, Lil’ Nebby.