Granted, the following opinion may seem a bit insane: The fans who have a rooting interest in Saturday’s Iowa-Iowa State football game have more to lose than the players.
I know, I know. That adds to the 21st century tradition of defying reason. The players invest virtually all of themselves in their sport, something close to 24/7/365. There are only 12 regular-season games per year. Each means the world to them, especially one like Hawkeyes-Cyclones.
There’s no way fans have as much tied up in the games. They are spectators, not participants. They go back to their lives when games end.
All true. Except, in this case ...
Players: This season won’t end with a defeat in this game. Iowa can go on to win enough Big Ten games to win the West division. Should it go 9-0 in Big Ten play and then knock off the East champ in Indianapolis, the Hawkeyes almost surely would proceed to the College Football Playoff.
Iowa lost to Iowa State back in 2002, then peeled off nothing but victories the rest of the way and closed the year in the Orange Bowl. The Cyclones didn’t get any warmth from their September win over Iowa when they were in Idaho three months later losing to Boise State in the Humanitarian Bowl.
Should the Cyclones fall Saturday, they can still arise to win enough Big 12 games to advance to that league’s championship game for the first time.
If ISU is in the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium on Dec. 7, no one on the team will be thinking about what went wrong against Iowa on Sept. 14.
But when it comes to ...
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Fans: Oh, how a loss in this year’s Iowa-ISU game will torment the fans who allow themselves to be tormented.
If you’re a Cyclone supporter and your guys lose, it would mark a fifth-straight defeat to the Hawkeyes. It would be three in a row when you had a team that either went on to win eight games or was projected in the preseason to win at least that many.
You’ll have to hear that fingernails-on-a-blackboard “little brother” stuff from Hawkeye fans more than ever, and for another full year. Iowa will remain ranked, while your first experience as host of ESPN’s College GameDay ended with the hollowest of thuds.
If you’re a Hawkeye fan and your guys lose, it means Iowa State jumps past you in the Top 25 as you tumble down, and maybe out. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.
GameDay will have been a daylong celebration of all things Cyclone with you as the prop. Your in-state bragging rights would flutter away no matter how hard you reach for history to be your mouthpiece.
Iowa State football would no longer be the Iowa State football you knew and scornfully brushed off for so long, unless you were a reality denier. Because it means Matt Campbell, the young golden boy, would have his sixth win over a ranked foe since the start of the 2017 season.
For fans of the losing team, you can’t turn frowns upside-down at the next game. For Iowa State, that’s against Louisiana Monroe. For Iowa, it’s against Middle Tennessee. No redemption would be found there.
The bright side: The teams’ head coaches have the even-keel and bounce-back genes lacking in those who buy the tickets.
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One of the worst performances Iowa ever gave under Kirk Ferentz was a 44-7 loss at Arizona State in September 2004. It made last Saturday’s Rutgers-Iowa game look like a coin flip.
The Hawkeyes went on to win a share of the Big Ten title and the Capital One Bowl.
With Campbell at ISU’s reins at an ESPN Thursday night September game in Ames two years ago, the Cyclones lost 17-7 to a mediocre Texas team. They held the Longhorns to a puny 171 yards and still couldn’t prevail. ISU was a 31-point underdog in its next game, at third-ranked Oklahoma.
You may remember Cyclones 38, Sooners 31.
So go ahead and put all your eggs in Saturday’s basket, fans of both teams. One of you groups will go home with lots of cracked shells. Luckily for you, your coaches’ eggs are hard-boiled.
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