I had all kinds of good intentions to write last week. But, something kept holding me back. I think it was on Tuesday that I convinced myself that not only could the Hawkeyes beat Penn State, but that they would beat Penn State. Should I write about that feeling? Have you seen my record in the predictions contest? Anything that I wrote would be guaranteed to be wrong. I would single-handedly be cursing my team to a loss. (As an aside, I recently did this in the ALDS when I watched Game 4 of the series in a seated position other than the pre-determined White Sox victory position. Yeah, I'm that kind of fan.
So I kept my mouth shut. And I had one of the weirdest game watching experiences in my life.
As my moniker no doubt tipped you off, there are two teams to which I pay the most attention. Mrs. Hawkeye and I have been able to watch most of the games of both teams without conflict this year. This Saturday, CBS and ABC wouldn't give us the luxury. And so I readied my channel-flipping finger. As a rule, I tried to be watching whichever team was on offense. When Shonn Greene scored his early touchdown, my wife and I wondered out loud if this could happen. When Earl Alexander fumbled through the end zone for an Alabama touchback, we got out the bourbon...
What was amazing about the Hawkeyes game was how they continually did just enough. The defense kept coming through with one key stop to hold the Lions to field goals. The offense, when they were finally allowed to play in the second half, was able to convert just enough plays to get into the end zone. From what I saw, Penn State really only blew one coverage all day, and the Hawks were able to take advantage of it for the touchdown strike to DJK.
What was weird about the two simultaneous games, was that I knew that Alabama would win, and I never really lost the feeling that Iowa would win, too. I worried about a defense that was on the field for 24 of the first 30 minutes of the game, but I was still feeling good. When Daniel Murray hit his kick, and twenty minutes later when John Parker Wilson plunged in for the winning OT touchdown, I was overjoyed. But I can't say I was surprised. The wins just felt like they were supposed to happen.
So what happens to Iowa now? They should beat Purdue. Dear God they should beat Purdue. A loss this Saturday will undo all of the good that has come form this win. Then they go to Minnesota where three things will be on the line:
1) The most beautiful trophy in all of sports.
2) The opportunity to have a second chance to carry the goalposts out of the dome (while putting a fitting end the almost three-decade of Minnesota's misery in the dome).
3) The chance to claim a spot in the Outback Bowl. I'm comfortable predicting that unless a) Illinois upsets Ohio State or b) Oregon State wins out, the winner of the Iowa/Minnesota game will go to Tampa on New Year's Day. Considering where both of these teams spent last New Year's, they have to love being in a one game playoff for that honor.
Here's the thing though, is this a win that signals another rise of the Hawkeyes? As you may have seen during the broadcast, this was Iowa's first win over a Top 5 team since 1990. That win was a signal that Iowa was back from it's late-80's slip under Hayden Fry. It would go to the Rose Bowl that year, and finish the following year at 10-1 (a team that Lee Corso would proclaim to be the best team ever to be kept out of a New Year's Day Bowl - the Big Ten runner-up used to go to the Holiday Bowl). Could this be happening again? Why not? It's been a long time since Iowa had a win like that. Why not have it lead to bigger and better things?
A note about Wisconsin---if they push around Minnesota like they did Indiana (and it was impressive), they'll finish 7-5 and head to the Alamo Bowl or Champs Bowl. For a team that was 3-4, that's not so bad.