What might be. Sometimes those three words foster fear and loathing, sometimes they put a lift in your step.
What might be for Iowa if loses at Indiana Saturday afternoon …
It’s easy to be melodramatic about such things, but Iowa truly, deeply needs to win. Lose this game, and the Hawkeyes are 4-5.
But forget the math about the difficulty of pulling out a fifth-straight winning season. It’s what a defeat to the Hoosiers would mean to the psyche of the team and its fan base.
Bring home a third-straight loss? Come back to Iowa with a defeat to an Indiana team that had been considered downtrodden as recently as, well, today? That’s the recipe for a lot more elbow room than usual in the Kinnick Stadium parking lots and bleachers next Saturday when the Hawkeyes host nonentity Purdue.
Win today, however, and you buy back a little goodwill and grab back some positive vibes. Couple that with a win over Purdue, and tra-la-la. You’re 6-4. Then, let’s see what happens in the last two games against Michigan and Nebraska, neither of whom are Alabama or Oregon.
But lose this afternoon and you’re on that slippery slope from fan-anger to fan-apathy. Even in Eastern Iowa, people can find something to do on chilly November Saturdays other than watch two football teams with losing records.
Sure, the tickets for the Purdue game are sold and the revenue is in the barn. But the images of a less-than-enthusiastic gathering of fans in a less-than-full stadium can linger.
However, an Iowa victory Saturday could once again change the narrative of this up-and-down season. The Hawkeyes’ defense is in for a track meet today against Indiana’s hyper-sonic offense, but if Damon Bullock remains healthy for four quarters, his rushing-yardage odometer could spin itself silly.
And if ever there were a day for Iowa’s overall offense to get well this season, shouldn’t it be against a defense that allows 438 yards per game, 222 on the ground?
What might be for Iowa State if it beats Oklahoma Saturday …
Iowa State’s mission is simple, but its task is extremely difficult. Namely, defeat the No. 14 (No. 9 on my latest AP ballot) Oklahoma Sooners.
ISU hasn’t beaten OU since 1990, and hasn’t done it in Ames since 1960. The Cyclones have lost 13 straight to the Sooners, and haven’t scored in double-digits against Oklahoma in their last six meetings. The combined score of those games are 231-32. Yikes!
But things have changed at Iowa State the last few years. Ranked opponents to the Cyclones have become like cardinal-colored capes to bulls.
This season, Iowa State won at then-No. 15 TCU on Oct. 6. Even a loss the Cyclones had the following week — 27-21 at home to Kansas State — looks impressive when you saw how the Wildcats brutalized West Virginia and Texas Tech in the two weeks that followed.
But this is still Oklahoma, a fine team coming off a very disappointing 30-13 loss to Notre Dame. The Sooners don’t make a habit of curling into the fetal position after defeats. They came back from their 24-19 loss to K-State in September with a 41-20 thumping of a good Texas Tech team in Lubbock.
If the underdog Cyclones can scratch out a win over Oklahoma without the help of premier linebacker Jake Knott, their narrative changes dramatically.
At 6-3, they would surely shoot into the Top 25 on Sunday. It would be their first time in a November poll since 1978. The question wouldn’t be if they are going to a bowl, but how good the bowl will be.
These are tough tasks for the two in-state teams, with not a lot of people loving either’s chances. Ah, but what might be …