This may sound odd given Iowa’s record is 4-7, but Friday’s football game against Nebraska is a big one for the Hawkeyes.
It’s kind of important for the Cornhuskers, too, or so whispers from the west indicate. f you’re talking about the Big Ten championship and such things, but that’s another story.
Anyway, what makes this more than a playing-for-pride or playing-out-the-string contest for Iowa? That’s as easy to answer as A-B-C. From 11 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., or so, Nebraska-Iowa game is the only thing on ABC.
Fifty states, a day when a lot of the nation’s workforce isn’t working, and millions of eyeballs on the Huskers and Hawkeyes. Until the LSU-Arkansas game on CBS kicks off at 1:30, anyhow.
If the Hawkeyes are outplayed the way they were against Penn State and Michigan at the two ends of their current 5-game losing streak, the nation will view Iowa’s team and stadium as hapless props for a Nebraska party.
The Cornhuskers would be plowing their way into the Big Ten’s title game, In the second-half, the images that would burn in bright red would be those of Nebraska players partying on the field and sidelines, and of its fans living large in the stands while Iowa fans make their exodus well before the final play.
That isn’t the way Iowa football wants to be remembered from mid-afternoon Friday until Iowa plays Northern Illinois in Kinnick Stadium next Aug. 31.
If that is the last mental image Hawkeye fans have to draw from in a season-full of unhappy mental images, it’s going to be a cold off-season. The enthusiasm at all those I-Club banquets around the state will be a little more tempered. It could only be harder to shake those money trees.
Yes, Hawkeyes football games — before, during and after at Kinnick — are the top seven social events of the year for tens of thousands of Iowans and Iowa grads who come back game after game, season after season. But there is still a percentage of fans who will hesitate to commit to renewing season tickets if they don’t think the on-field product is giving them enough entertainment value.
If Iowa gives a spirited effort Friday against a fine opponent, maybe that would be enough of a spark to tide those people over and keep the faith. But if the Hawkeyes get rocked, again? Ouch.
Also, if Iowa lays it second-straight egg against Nebraska that could make for a very short Hawkeyes tenure as the Black Friday foe for the Huskers. Which would not be good for Iowa.
Iowa and Nebraska are set to end their seasons against each other through 2016, but the agreement to play on Friday was only set in stone through 2012.
If you’re ABC and the Big Ten and Nebraska-Iowa seems like a one-sided series, you might be more comfortable with, say, Wisconsin-Penn State in that Friday time slot. With Maryland and Rutgers coming aboard shortly, maybe the conference and the network would rather slip in a game with those Eastern television markets in play.
If the Hawkeyes stage a big upset today, maybe that would sway everyone that Iowa-Nebraska is indeed a good rivalry and this is a game worth keeping on Fridays on ABC for years to come.
But if the Huskers administer the kind of beating that Michigan gave the Hawks last week? It really would be a Black Friday at Kinnick. And maybe the last one.