Ranking Iowa's 2014 football games: No. 2 Nebraska

What stakes will be at stake for this late-November clash

Nebraska Coach Bo Pelini argues after being called for an unsportsmanlike penalty during last year’s Iowa-Nebraska game in Lincoln. The Cornhuskers lost, 38-17. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette-KCRG)
Nebraska Coach Bo Pelini argues after being called for an unsportsmanlike penalty during last year’s Iowa-Nebraska game in Lincoln. The Cornhuskers lost, 38-17. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette-KCRG)

This is a 12-to-1 countdown of Iowa’s most-appealing football games this season. No. 1 is the most-appealing. We started with

No. 12 Ball State. Purdue was No. 11, Northern Iowa No. 10, Iowa State No. 9, Indiana No. 8, Illinois No. 7, Pittsburgh No. 6, Minnesota No. 5, Northwestern No. 4, Maryland No. 3. All previous posts in this countdown can be found here.

No. 2: Nebraska (Nov. 28 in Iowa City)

If it’s a two-game season for Iowa, that means it’s been a good 12-game season. Probably.

Iowa closes with home games against Wisconsin and Nebraska. If these are profoundly meaningful games, it means the first 10 games have had pretty good results.

But consider this: If Iowa goes into the last two games with a 9-1 mark and finishes 9-3, it’s a disappointing season to some degree. But if it goes into those games 7-3 and emerges 9-3? Pretty good year.

Now consider this: What if the Cornhuskers and Hawkeyes are both 11-0 on the morning after Thanksgiving? On a more-likely note, what if I play Powerball for the first time in my life and win the jackpot?

Well, Nebraska-Iowa is going to be a biggie in these parts no matter what. The Huskers are in the preseason Top 25s. The Hawkeyes are not. Of course, that and three bucks won’t get you a Runza.

Still, can you imagine what Kinnick Stadium and its environs would be like on Black Friday if this game were for the Big Ten West title? Instead of the anticipation over Thanksgiving dinner, most people in a two-state area would just want to get the holiday over so they could move on to the biggest game either team have known in a long, long time.

You know the back story of the series. Nebraska won the first two games of the series after the Huskers entered the Big Ten, then Iowa drubbed them in Lincoln last November, 38-17.

Bo Pelini flipped out during and after the game, his tenure was assumed to be coming to an end, and instead he got a vote of confidence and a Gator Bowl win over Georgia.

Since then, Pelini has rehabbed his image, doing fun stuff in public and laughing at himself from time to time. Which doesn’t change the fact Husker fans are weary of 9-4, 10-4, 10-4, 9-4, 10-4, 9-4, which is Pelini’s 6-year record.

That would be considered OK in some parts, and downright wonderful in many others. Nebraska isn’t one of those places. And don’t forget the Huskers won five games last year by less than a touchdown.

There hasn’t been that one special season since Bo got the reins. Nebraskans still remember special seasons, though they’ve grown further and further from recent times. They still remember the college football dynasty that once was Nebraska.

But the Huskers haven’t won a conference title in football since 1999. Here are some teams that have won football league-titles since then: Northwestern, Purdue, Illinois, Colorado, Kansas State, California, Maryland. Iowa.

Iowa, meanwhile, is 10 years without a Big Ten title itself. To be in a position to win another, the Hawkeyes will almost surely have to take down Nebraska again. As well as beat a whole bunch of other teams.

If both teams come to Kinnick that last Friday of November at, say, 7-4, the bitterness in the air will be from far more than a late-autumn wind. On the plus side, it would mean people in Iowa and Nebraska were in less of a hurry to get Thanksgiving over and done.

I’ve never had a Runza sandwich, by the way. But I sure do love turkey and dressing and cranberry and such.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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