1. Trophy involved — Let’s go ahead and rank Iowa’s four trophy games, for aesthetics and tradition of the trophy:
National champion: Floyd of Rosedale. This is hands down the No. 1. Minnesota made it a marketing symbol for its program, but couldn’t win it back this fall. Iowa keeps the 98.3-pound bronze pig prominently displayed in a case in the lobby of its offices. Minnesota had a deal the last time it held the pig for fans to have their pictures taken with it. Floyd is the third oldest continuous traveling trophy in the Big Ten.
Silver medal: Cy-Hawk Trophy. Since the rivalry woke up in 1998, things have escalated. You’ve probably noticed. The trophy has changed quite a bit, too, and so it doesn’t have the cachet Floyd does. Let’s all take a moment and celebrate Iowa Corn Growers CEO Craig Floss, the man who finally pulled the plug on the “bigger ideal,” the family corn idolaters trophy. Long live Craig Floss!! (The trophy is fine, but I liked my idea of include the game ball from the ROTC run between the schools. Signed by the winning team, included with the trophy, auctioned off for charity before the next season’s game.)
Steak knives: The Heartland Trophy. That’s the one up for grabs this week. It’s a bronze bull. A lot of you consider it contrived. It’s totally contrived, but here it is. You can say this for every trophy game, but this rivalry seemed just fine without a trophy. These two teams are a pair of polar bears wrestling to stay afloat on an ice cube in the Bering Sea. That’s trophy enough, isn’t is? Seeing these two teams play for every inch? Aesthetically, I kind of like the bull. Would a dairy cow have been too Wisconsin?
Last place: Heroes Trophy. Quick, what does it look like? You don’t know. Not even Husker people know. Well, it’s a pretty darn big huge trophy. It looks like the teams would need a John Deere Gator to truck it around the stadium. Don’t get me wrong, the Heroes Game concept is beautiful. Each game honors two local “heroes,” one from Iowa and one from Nebraska, nominated by friends, neighbors or co-workers for an “extraordinary act.” That’s fantastic and the heart is in the right place. Did we need to stick a trophy with it? Probably not, but here it is.
2. Quick future check — On his radio show Wednesday night, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz was asked which true freshman contributor he was most pleased with. Well, you don’t get to a head football coach making nearly $4 million a year without being at least a little bit political. He mentioned them all — cornerback Desmond King, wide receiver Matt VandeBerg, running back LeShun Daniels and linebacker Reggie Spearman. Everybody got a ribbon.
Let’s run a quick forecast for possible immediate futures (why not?):
CB Desmond King — You’re probably looking at Iowa’s next four-year starter. Ferentz mentioned that when they first brought in King he thought he looked at a safety. King has been a corner from day 1. You’ve seen a few Iowa corners switch to safety (Charles Godfrey, Amari Spievey). Let the NFL do the switching. If you’re Iowa and you have a player capable of playing man and/or zone, you keep him at corner and don’t overthink it.
WR Matt VandeBerg — I have to admit, I didn’t see this one coming. First, in August he went from gray shirt to full scholarship. Then, in week 2, he’s in the game, catching two passes for 17 yards against Missouri State. I didn’t see it coming, but maybe I should’ve. It’s getting crowded at wide receiver with four more (Derrick Mitchell, Andre Harris, A.J. Jones and Derrick Willies) coming aboard next fall. Iowa loses just two seniors in the WR corps. The Hawkeye will have a lot of experience and will be trying to keep a lot of young egos satisfied.
RB LeShun Daniels — It’s probably safe to call him the “Mark Weisman” insurance policy. He’s the next “power back” in. It’s kind of along the lines of wide receiver. Iowa has a lot of bodies and, so, has the task of keeping all of these young egos engaged. Can Daniels win a share of carries? Yes, it’s possible, but Weisman is driving the bus now and probably next year, during his senior season.
LB Reggie Spearman — Here’s my idea: Keep building Spearman into Iowa’s version of UW linebacker Chris Borland. Remember the 2009 game, an Iowa win at Camp Randall Stadium? Borland was a freshman. He lined up as a pass-rush specialist, beat senior OT Kyle Calloway and caused a fumble. Is is doing just that with Spearman, whose feel for power and angles on the pass rush has looked solid in the few games he’s played. Right now, he’s practicing at weakside linebacker, a position that is begging someone to take and run with in 2014 and beyond. I expect his profile to grow quickly starting this spring.
3. A ‘Big Board’ hello — Iowa offensive tackle Brandon Scherff has had the NFL draft come to his doorstep.
The junior from Denison is No. 24 on ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper’s draft board this week. It’s Scherff’s first appearance on the “Big Board,” which has 25 players on it.
I know there is weight to what Kiper writes, so I’m not dismissing it. If he believes Scherff is a top 25 college football player, you can probably assume that NFL scouts have him on their draft boards. Scherff probably doesn’t notice. He has an Iowa wrestler mentality. Seriously, it’s like talking to one of the Brands brothers except that you’re staring up and he can hang clean 410 pounds three times. But hey, I wouldn’t put that one past the Brands brothers, either.
Scherff is the most important recruit for Iowa’s 2014 class.