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The Rutgers football experience reminded me a lot of the Maryland football experience of two years ago when Iowa played there. Which is to say, it didn’t have a Big Ten feel to it.
Unless, that is, your idea of a Big Ten feel is more Northwestern or Indiana than Wisconsin or Iowa.
I liked Rutgers’ stadium and setting, just as I did Maryland’s. They aren’t venues on steroids like Ohio State’s or Michigan’s or Penn State’s. Nor are they just plain big like Nebraska’s or Wisconsin’s or Michigan State’s ... or Iowa’s.
They’re pro markets where college football has always been a sidelight, and that’s never changing.
Sunday’s New York Daily News gave the Iowa-Rutgers game six paragraphs, taken from an Associated Press story. Sunday’s New York Post gave the game half that much text.
Look, Iowa isn’t Michigan when it comes to being a national drawing card, but the team that represented the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl last year didn’t make a ripple at the box office here. The announced crowd was 44,061, and there sure weren’t that many people in the stadium.
While at a New Brunswick taquiera Saturday night, it never even occurred to ask the guy working the grill to change the TV from Fox’s Oklahoma State-Baylor telecast to the Big Ten Network’s Nebraska-Northwestern game.
Because? Because why would the BTN be on the joint’s cable system? Maybe it was, but it didn’t feel like it would be.
My Piscataway Township hotel TV had four ESPN channels. It didn’t have the BTN.
Oh well, the Oklahoma State-Baylor game was more interesting, anyhow.
* Is Iowa good? The season’s one-third over, and the answer is: Check back later.
What is clear is not much makes sense. Two weeks ago, Iowa whomped Iowa State, 42-3, and you thought the Hawkeyes had the eye of the tiger. But the Hawkeyes have allowed 432 rushing yards in the two games that followed, and that doesn’t bode well.
But judging next week by last week is a surefire way to look foolish when it comes to college football. Northwestern, Iowa’s next foe, beat Duke 24-13 in Week 3, then fell by the same score to Nebraska Saturday night.
Duke, meanwhile, turned around and won at Notre Dame Saturday, 38-35. Remember when Duke winning at Notre Dame in football would have been considered an absolute impossibility?
We got wowed by Michigan State for winning at Notre Dame a week ago, then saw the Spartans get owned by Wisconsin Saturday in East Lansing, 30-6.
That’s the same Wisconsin team that limped past Georgia State in Madison the week before. Georgia State lost its previous game by 34 points, to Air Force.
* Here’s what’s what in the Big Ten West, though: Nebraska and Wisconsin are 4-0 and have good wins. Especially Wisconsin.
Beating LSU and Michigan State in September? Everyone who picked the Badgers to win those two games, stand on your heads.
But back to the question from the previous bullet point. Is Iowa good?
It doesn’t matter. Will Iowa be good? It can be ordinary again Saturday and still beat Northwestern in Kinnick Stadium. But starting with the following week’s game at Minnesota, light bulbs better start coming on. Wisconsin, Michigan and Nebraska are still coming to town.
On Fox Saturday night, analyst Dave Wannstedt says he still likes the Hawkeyes to win the Big Ten West. If nothing else, Iowa still has the best schedule of any contender in the division.
We’ve got a lot of season left. Maybe it will start to make sense at some point.
The tacos were delicious, by the way.