Monday, September 26, 2005

Perspective is a funny thing

I was in the stands for the ISU-Nebraska game in 2004, and the differences in the two teams was stark. ISU looked skilled, polished, strong. Nebraska looked small, slow and confused. It was a complete flip of what we are used to seeing in the series.

Fast forward a year, and read the quotes coming out of Lincoln.

“I think it’s been on all of our minds. It was a bad loss. They were a beatable team, and we should’ve beaten them.”

What game was he watching?

ISU outplayed the Huskers in every phase of the game until the last 10 minutes. Only when the ISU staff went to the soft prevent zone to prevent the big play did the Nebraska offense find any life. The 7 point margin was as close as the game got at any point.

ISU was beatable? Well, so were the Huskers. Even more so.

I suppose it's the only good face the Nebraska staff and crew can put on the game. A loss to ISU is not easy to swallow for the Big Red crowd. Coach Calahan can't start the post game presser with "They've passed us in both talent and scheme. It's going to take a while for us to catch up in both." The earth would open up and swallow him whole the moment he crossed the Missouri. So the loss is couched as "We should have won. A break here, a play there, we win."

Another loss this year and they might consider giving up football; if they lose 3 of 4 to the Cyclones, clearly they have forgotten what they are doing. Which way to the baseball field?

The ISU game is critical for Nebraska. A win, and they are in the driver's seat for the North title. A loss, and every team on their schedule is looking at them as a possible benchmark win, bad record or not. With Tech bringing it's wild road show into Lincoln the following Saturday, NU needs some confidence against a quality opponent. Fast.


Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Iowa Factor

If the CSJ staff were betting types, money could be made by simply betting on the teams that Iowa avoids in their conference schedule.

Since the Big TenEleven went to the "Miss Two" schedule in 1993, two conference teams are off the schedule of each conference team. Those teams come on and off in pairs, so each team misses a home and home with themissing opponent.

Since that schedule was begun, the teams Iowa has missed have gone to bowl games at a much higher rate than the conference as a whole, 70% to 59%.

According to JHowell's excellent site, since 1993 Big TenEleven teams have made 78 bowl appearances out of a possible 132 seasons (11 teams x 12 seasons) for a 59% appearance rate. Of the 24 teams Iowa hasn't played in that span, 17 have earned bowl bids, or 70%. 2004 was the first year that the streak was broken, as neither Nothwestern or Indiana went bowling- although at 6-6, NW was on the cusp. In fact, in 6 of those seasons both teams Iowa missed went to bowl games ('93- WI OSU; '94 WI OSU; '97 MSU PSU; '99 MI PU; '00 MI PU; '01 IL OSU).

The case can be made that Iowa dodged possible losses due to the luck of the scheduling draw. In several of those years ('93, '97, '01 ) playing one or both bowl-earning teams missing from their schedules could have knocked Iowa from bowl contention.

Interestingly, only the '03 Northwestern squad would have been bounced from a bowl with a loss to an Iowa team they didn't play. The other 16 Iowa-dodgers had wins to spare, meaning Iowa gained more from this schedule anomoly than the teams they missed.

Who to like in 2005? Michigan State and Penn State, both of whom have jumped out 4-0 and 1-0 in the Big TenEleven. iowa dodges two more bullets, while getting Indiana and Northwestern back on their docket. Imagine that.


Good team? Bad team?

Three games in, and the jury is still out on the 2005 Cyclones. Good team with a couple of bad nights? Bad team with one perfect effort against a rival?

Much of ISU's win over Army left the observer wanting more: More effort, more heart, more execution of what ISU wants to do well. ISU was simply outplayed for much of the game, yet pieced together opportunities to eek out a win. They exerted themselves at the right times and the right ways to get the win, just as they did against Illinois State.

Like the win over Iowa, I view this from the "The Glass Is Half Full" section of the stadium. Cyclone teams of the past would have wilted before the cadets and lost going away, tumbling from the ranked to the just rank, and simmering in their own gutless juice to a 4-7 finish. This Cyclone unit overcame an inspired Army team, the pressure of national TV, and their own bad road and halftime-deficit history to win the game. The victory was earned through defensive pressure and opportunistic offensive play.

Good teams overcome bad nights. So far, we have seen the extremes of how ISU can play, and they are 3-0 headed into Lincoln. They have found the way to win. Hopefully the good game/bad game trend follows form and ISU is lights out at Nebraska.

Until proven otherwise, this ISU squad is unlike their predessors: They win even when they shouldn't.


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Here lies Trev Albert's career

We mustn't let the football season pass any further without noting the end of Trev Albert's national TV career. It's death was self-inflicted.

Trev felt he wasn't "being respected" internally, so he decided not to show up for work on a football Saturday. They pull Beano Cook from his cyronic chamber every Saturday so he can wax about the glory that was Notre Dame back is '23, but Trev skips out? That's the only day of the week he really HAD to be there- ESPN could cover any of the other six days. Knucklehead.

I'm sure he will get another gig- CBS maybe, or FOX if they decide to spin up a weekly football show, perhaps radio- but he will never again have a pulpit with the reach of the ESPN blowtorch, and the universe it a better place for it. For of all of Albert's stupid opinions- and every talking head is paid to clutch a few tightly to his chest- the most laughable was how he was an unashamed Nebraska apologist.

NU gets thumped by Colorado, then gets a shot at the title? No problem!

NU recruits thugs to win? Why did they wait?

Also-rans like ISU think they are good enough to run with mighty NU? Ph-shaw! Pretenders! I don't care what the score was or how many games they have won the last 5 years. ALL HAIL THE GLORY THAT WAS NEBRASKA!

Because of that, I won't miss him a bit. While I realize that much of televised sports is entertainment first, I still want at least a shred of objectiveness in that entertainment, and that is where Alberts failed most often.


New year, same old excuses

Perhaps the most satisfying aspect of a Cyclone win over the despised Hawkeyes is reading the same old chestnut excuses trotted out to explain just how the mighty Hawks could be beaten by the lowly Clowns:

"ISU wanted it more"
"This game is their Super Bowl"
"McCarny's rah-rah is better in a big game than Ferentz's unemotional apporoach"
"Iowa always drops a non-confernce game they shouldn't"
"Iowa puts all their focus on the conference season"
"The Hawks would have won if it hadn't been for....."

Suppose ISU somehow wins in IC next fall. Simply cue up each of these lines and speak them to the Iowa fan nearest you, before he can get them out of his mouth. It will end the conversation quickly, and you both can get back to your beers.


Sunday, September 11, 2005

Another corner turned

In many ways, Saturday's stunning upset of 8th ranked Iowa was new territory. Unlike so many Iowa-Iowa State games over the last 25 years, it was Iowa that looked tight, lacked emotion and effort, and gift wrapped the game for the other team. And unlike other Cy-Hawk clashes from the past, ISU was able and willing to take a game the other team was trying to give away.

Those twin developments should bring much joy to Cyclone fan as we look ahead to the rest of the season. If Iowa is truly good and ISU forced them into mistakes, ISU has a realistic shot at every game left on the schedule. If Iowa was a fraud at #8, they have a season of frustration ahead with 4 or 5 more losses possible. That's a long way from being touted as a possible #1.

But the fact that ISU took the gifts presented to them, and didn't try to level the playing field themselves speaks volumes about the state of the program. Consider all the games during in the recent series that ISU had a chance to win, but didn't: 1977, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1993, and even 2004. Iowa gave ISU the opportunity, but ISU couldn't capitalize. Not anymore.

For a final summary of Saturday, visit this blog and enjoy the photos. The last one is the best.


Monday, September 05, 2005

The runup begins

And so the hype for Iowa - Iowa State begins, and for the upteenth year the theme is: biggest game ever?

On paper, yes. Which should guarrentee a lousy game.

The best games come in unexpected years. The 1980 10-7 ISU win came between two teams that only managed 10 wins between them. 1990 had a wild 45-35 Iowa win in Iowa City. The 2002 36-31 ISU win mirrored the two teams seasons in reverse: Iowa's first half explosion equalled ISU's 6-1 start, and their second half collapse foreshadowed the Cyclones 1-6 finish. ISU's brilliant 3rd quarter was equal to the miracles Iowa would pull the remainder of the season.

I don't expect such excitement this year, however.

ISU's offense and FG unit still appear to be a serious work in progress. Iowa defense, while potentially not as good as last year, is still stout, and should hold ISU under 20 points.

Iowa's offense looks to be another juggernaut, and given ISU's inability to force pressure rushing 4 and a tendancy to get burnt deep, I expect Iowa to score whenevr they need to.

ISU can't win this game on their own; Iowa will need to lose. Hopefully the Black and Gold crowd get a case of Tight Helmet at inopportune times.


Saturday, September 03, 2005


Iowa State's win over Illinois State was less than impressive.

What we learned:

The defense is good enough to win some games. They are not good enough to carry the team against solid opposition.
Meyer can make great throws when given time.
The OL still can't run block well.
DeAndre Jackson can be beaten deep.
The kicking game is still an adventure.
Special teams, placekicking asside, is a stregnth.

Early prediction: Iowa 35, ISU 14. Just not enough O for ISU to keep up.

More to follow as the week progresses.