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Hlas: Hawkeyes' mantra: Just get through Purdue

Beat Boilermakers, and Iowa's season suddenly gets intriguing

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I’m writing a book. I have the page numbers done, now I just have to fill in the rest.

That’s an old Steven Wright line, and it’s a way for me to stall a bit before discussing Saturday’s Iowa-Purdue football game. OK, let’s proceed.

Doesn’t this Hawkeyes season feel like a book that should be half-written by now, except we don’t feel like we have any context regarding where the story is headed?

Maybe Saturday’s game in West Lafayette will be the one that starts to bring things into focus. But it’s Purdue, so it’s hard to feel compelled by the matchup.

Yes, it’s a mundane pairing in what has been a strangely mundane season so far for the Hawkeyes despite four straight games decided by one score. Maybe it’s only been dull because of an inevitable hangover after the excitement they produced throughout last season.

That’s written with the belief Iowa did get a season-saving victory last week at Minnesota. Las Vegas sports books took in a lot more money on the Gophers than Iowa last Friday, and again on Saturday morning. Those casinos thank the Hawkeyes very much, or would if they had souls.

Half the problem with Iowa’s season to date is that outside of the destructive force it was under the lights against Iowa State in Week 2, it hasn’t been anything resembling electrifying.

Losing two home games was a downer, and while every Big Ten road win is a good win, doing it by 14-7 at both Rutgers and Minnesota brought as much relief as joy.

The other half is the quality of the opponents. Iowa hasn’t played a team most fans would set aside three hours to watch unless they were a fan of one of them. And even some of those people wouldn’t.

I’m looking at you, Rutgers. But not for long.

The combined record of the five FBS teams the Hawkeyes have played before this game is 8-20. Purdue is 3-2. However, it’s a 3-2 record as soft as a whisper, as deceptive as someone who whispers lies.

Rather than pretend the Boilermakers are something other than a Big Ten foot wipe, let’s cut to the chase and say the Hawkeyes have little choice but beat them for the rest of their season to be meaningful.

Should they lose, we’ll calmly discuss what has gone wrong after donning Hazmat suits. But should they win as expected — and Nate Silver would surely give them an 88.8 percent chance of doing just that — we can then move on to something a lot more interesting.

Namely, next week and perhaps the rest of the season.

Things get real fun real fast after today if the Hawkeyes are 3-1 in the Big Ten. They come home to play Wisconsin next week. Which speaks for itself.

After that, Iowa goes to Penn State, plays Michigan at home, goes to Illinois, and plays Nebraska at home. It’s a kettle full of anything-can-happen.

With three (current) Top Ten teams coming to Kinnick Stadium, Iowa can make this season unforgettable with victories over all. Or, something slightly less. Or, something significantly less.

But at least it would get interesting. Playing Purdue in half-empty Ross-Ade Stadium, where the memories of a good Boilermakers program fade more with each passing year, is like waiting at a red light. It’s one of those tedious things you endure on your way to somewhere you want to go.

Which reminds me that when everything is coming your way, you’re in the wrong lane.

That line was from Steven Wright, too. If the Hawkeyes don’t win Saturday, next week I’ll be lifting material from Stephen King.

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