Sports

3 Things on the mind during bye weeks for Iowa and Iowa State football

Iowa high school football playoffs take center stage Friday

MFL Mar-Mac teammates celebrate their win at a high school football game with Edgewood Colesburg at MFL Marmac High School in Monona on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. MFL Mar-Mac won the game, 28-23. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
MFL Mar-Mac teammates celebrate their win at a high school football game with Edgewood Colesburg at MFL Marmac High School in Monona on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. MFL Mar-Mac won the game, 28-23. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

My Mondays in the fall generally are spent digging deep into Iowa’s football opponent this week, trying to find quirky or fun facts about the Michigans, Purdues or Middle Tennessees of the world.

It’s not as easy as it sounds — especially when you’re combining college football with quirky/fun.

But with the Hawkeyes taking a knee this Saturday — and Iowa State, too — I thought I’d come up with a random, albeit shorter, “Things” entry.

No promises on this being funny or quirky, however. I don’t need the pressure.

Hopefully these “3 Things” are at least a bit informative:

1. High school football

It’s playoff time and, honestly, what’s more exciting than that?

The first round is Friday and we have 20 games in The Gazette’s circulation area we’ll be paying attention to. We’ll have staff writers at four, correspondents at three others and get help from our sister paper with the Washington (Iowa) at Western Dubuque game. We’ll also get help from a handful of other games.

That’s a lot of football, a lot of good football.

This has been a fun year to watch teams grow and some new ones take giant leaps.

Western Dubuque is a relative newcomer to the Mississippi Valley Conference and many wondered how it would fit in with the “big boys.” It has had success in a variety of sports since joining the MVC and takes a No. 1 ranking and 9-0 record into the football playoffs.

One of the best stories of the year, however, is MFL MarMac. Every step the Bulldogs took this fall seemed like an unprecedented one. And now they are 9-0 and ranked fourth in class A heading into Friday’s playoff game against South Winneshiek.

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Sit back and enjoy this journey to the UNI-Dome with us.

2. College football

A lot has been said and written about the state’s two FBS teams this fall.

Iowa was “falling apart” after back-to-back losses to Michigan and Penn State — its offense did look pretty inept — but now things are “back on track” after wins over Purdue and Northwestern.

The fact is, before the season, most had Iowa 6-2 at this point. The Hawkeyes can and have beat a Penn State at home or a Michigan on the road, but more times than not, this has been true to form.

Now comes the real two-game test — a game at Wisconsin on Nov. 9 and at home against Minnesota on Nov. 16. These are games Iowa traditionally is, at least, competitive in. And these are the games where a season can be made or broken. Hold on for this ride.

Iowa State fell to 5-3 after Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma State and some feel it was a blown opportunity. That may be true under Matt Campbell, but there was a time not too long ago when OSU was considered a loss before the season started. Now the Cyclones are, at worst, contenders in every game and, at best, favorites in games they historically lost.

That’s moving in the right direction and that makes for an exciting year — every year.

UNI is in a similar boat in the FCS. The Panthers are winning games they traditionally win and have lost games when they were the underdog. UNI is, once again, having a solid season and, at 3-1 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, is in the hunt for yet another playoff berth.

Solid may not be flashy, but it gets you to the playoffs almost every year.

Now a win Saturday at No. 7 Illinois State would be flashy — no matter how it gets done.

3. Winter sports

Ugh.

Yes, it’s that time of year when the sky turns gray and snow is in the forecast. While the weather may be gloomy, the sports scene in Eastern Iowa should be exciting.

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Basketball media days are behind us at Iowa, ISU and UNI — men and women — and the wrestling teams take center stage this week. UNI introduced its 2019-20 team on Monday, Iowa State does the same Tuesday and Iowa will wrap things up on Wednesday at the Kroul Farms outside Mount Vernon. That should be a lot of fun — Iowa wrestlers on a farm. There’s got to be a joke there somewhere.

It looks like all three wrestling programs will be good again this year. Iowa could be an NCAA contender and ISU will continue its growth under Kevin Dresser. Doug Schwab, in his 10th season, also has UNI on the right track.

The UNI women already have an exhibition game under their belt and the Iowa women host Winona State on Sunday. The Hawkeye and Cyclone men play exhibitions next Monday.

And high school basketball practice begins Nov. 11 for girls, Nov. 18 for boys — the same day as wrestling.

Are you ready for this?

l Comments: (319) 368-8696; jr.ogden@thegazette.com

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