Across the Border

Who Am I?  Why Am I Here? Hopefully not the old man watching a heated exchange bounce back and forth...  

Frankly, I’m glad you asked.  But more than that, I’m glad Jonathan and Graham asked.  Let’s start with the why…apparently, someone tipped J&G to the fact that this great league that we all love has rivalries that spread beyond UM and tOSU.  Can someone else send that memo to Disney?  Anyway, with my column I’ll focus on some of those other rivalries – with the largest amount of my attention paid to the three teams in the Northwest corner of the league’s geographic footprint.

As for who I am, I was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago.  As a result, college football was a distant second for my gridiron attention.  Sure, I rooted for Notre Dame (I was a Catholic boy outside of Chicago – I was virtually required to), but I had no passion for the game.  I went to a D-III undergrad, so it was while I attended the University of Iowa College of Law that I became obsessed with the college game.  Iowa repaid me by getting worse each year: a disappointing 7-5 in 1997 (but so close to giving Michigan their only defeat), a sad 3-8 season in 1998 (Goodbye, Hayden.  You held on two years too long, but no one held that against you), and a ridiculously bad 1-10 in 1999 (Welcome Kirk!). 

I practiced in Kansas City for six years and grew to love the Hawkeye bars in the town - places where small groups on refugees gathered to watch Iowa move up the Big Ten standings. 

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Ms. Hawkeye moved me down to Alabama two and a half years ago.  Now, I am the football equivalent of living abroad.  Needless to say, the Big Ten is not a hot topic of conversation here.  When it is brought up, it’s generally in reference to this:

 

or this:


Not cool.  So I defend the league when I can and shake my head when I have to.  Yes, I’ll cheer on the Crimson Tide, but only in a secondary way.  My Hawkeye flag flies each Saturday.

As for Minnesota and Wisconsin, I think that they may be two of the more interesting stories in the country right now, and I really look forward to watching what happens. 

Minnesota’s favorable schedule and vastly improved play may well put them in their best bowl game in 47 years.  Will their fans travel?  If they get a chance to face off against, say South Carolina in the Outback Bowl, will they bring 15,000 to the game?  20,000?  Is there any real excitement (beyond the 27 names on the message boards) in the Cities?  If so, with a new stadium and how young that team is, Minnesota may be a very dangerous team in 2009 and 2010.  And I actually typed that without laughing…    

Is Wisconsin quitting?  There are teams each year that just mentally fold.  There was no shame in losing to Ohio State or Penn State.  Fluke losses like the Michigan game happen to some team each year.  But the Iowa game was something different.  There was not a talent advantage for Iowa.  There was a desire advantage for Iowa.  When you watch the Shonn Greene runs, he demonstrated incredible strength and speed on his touchdown runs.  But he did that 5-8 yards past the line of scrimmage.  The Iowa line didn’t just blow holes in the Wisky defensive line.  They blew away the linebackers.  Iowa may have its best O-Line since 2004, but they also looked like they didn’t face much resistance.

 

 

Look at the 1:54, 3:10, and 6:04 marks for examples of quitting.

So here we go.  Now that I’m on board, I can’t wait to write about Iowa’s game this week against OPEN DATE.  Seriously?  Why was I brought on right before a bye week? Who am I?  Why am I here? 

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