Iowa Football

Big Ten season coming in nick of time for college football

'Postponed' has been a byword of college football this season

LSU Coach Nick Saban (left) and Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz, posing with the Capital One Bowl trophy on Dec. 31, 2004 when t
LSU Coach Nick Saban (left) and Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz, posing with the Capital One Bowl trophy on Dec. 31, 2004 when times were more carefree and no one had ever heard of the term “coronavirus.” (Scott Audette/Associated Press)

What’s your over-under guess on the number of Big Ten football games that get canceled this season?

What kind of odds could you get on that conference going through its nine-week, 63-game slate without any disruptions?

The daily testing of its players for COVID-19 has to help the Big Ten’s chances. With travel, the nature of the game itself, and college-aged participants, though, getting through all nine games would be a great season in itself for any team.

Look at this week. Three top-10 teams that were scheduled to play Saturday won’t. No. 7 Oklahoma State-Baylor, postponed. No. 8 Cincinnati-Tulsa, likewise. LSU-No. 10 Florida, rescheduled because 21 Florida players tested positive for COVID-19. So did two assistant coaches.

This would be funny if it weren’t so unfunny: After Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — who has yet to be confused for a scientist — announced his state’s stadiums could open at full capacity, Gators Coach Dan Mullen said “I certainly hope our university administration follows the governor. Our governor has passed a rule that we’re allowed to pack the Swamp.”

Mullen said he wanted 90,000 fans to pack his school’s stadium. Days later, his team was swamped by the coronavirus.

Florida Athletics Director Scott Stricklin had quite a response to Mullen’s plea.

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“Coaches sometimes say things that are outside of their area of expertise and they’re really good at what they do,” Stricklin said. “Dan is really good at calling ball plays.”

That’s precious.

Stricklin, by the way, tested positive for COVID-19 in June.

The SEC also won’t have the Vanderbilt-Missouri game as planned. It will, however, have this week’s only matchup of ranked teams in Georgia-Alabama. Great game.

That clash, though, will be missing a certain someone. Alabama Coach Nick Saban will be at home, or somewhere, quarantined because he has the coronavirus. Saban, 68, is the seventh and oldest FBS head coach to test positive for the virus.

Iowa State has darted around the raindrops so far. Unlike Big 12 brothers TCU, Oklahoma State and Baylor (the Bears have three games canceled or postponed), the Cyclones are 4-for-4 in games played/games scheduled.

Baylor had 28 cases of COVID-19 among its football players this week. Be glad you didn’t play the Bears last week, Cyclones.

According to Iowa State, its student-athletes have zero positive results in their last 1,200 COVID-19 tests. Not much would be more impressive in ISU football than being 3-0 in the Big 12 with a win over Oklahoma included, but that qualifies.

The Big Ten will make its long-awaited return to the stage next weekend, and not a minute too soon for college football in general. As of Thursday afternoon, 29 FBS games have been postponed or canceled because of the virus, and college athletics needs as much TV inventory as it can get right now.

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Saturday at 11 a.m., Big Ten Network will air a one-hour version of the 1995 Iowa-Northwestern game. I won’t spoil it for you, but one team ended a 21-game losing streak against the other.

Iowa will play live football on BTN the following Saturday at Purdue. Or so one presumes.

Hawkeyes men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery said it well last week. There are no bubbles in college sports. The only bubble, he said, was in the NBA.

Since the NBA’s bubble cost over $150 million, no smaller versions will be coming to a college conference near you.

Does anyone else besides me want their lifestyle of eight months ago back? Winter is coming. But first, Big Ten football.

Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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