I believe in percentages. I believe in data. I believe in probabilities. I believe in math.
Some people believe in superstitions. They are, of course, desperate characters. So am I, but I also believe in math.
Since Nebraska joined the Big Ten for football in 2011 and played Iowa in the final regular-season game of the season, the Black Friday event has never been a winner-take-all for the Legends or West Division titles.
The Huskers and Hawkeyes have both been to one Big Ten title bout. Iowa was lousy when Nebraska advanced to Indianapolis in 2012. The Huskers were mediocre when the Hawkeyes capped a 12-0 regular season in 2015 with a win in Lincoln.
So as the prologue tells you, I believe in percentages, data and probabilities. Eight times, Nebraska and Iowa have met on Black Friday. Eight times, it wasn’t both teams competing for a division title on the season’s last day. So the numbers strongly suggest that won’t happen this year. And I believe in the numbers.
Yet, my pick for the No. 2 most-interesting game on Iowa’s 2019 schedule is …
Nov. 29: At Nebraska
Most people who pick such things are going with either Nebraska or Iowa to win the West this season, though a few outliers have Minnesota. Remember when Wisconsin was in the Big Ten West?
In the Cleveland Plain-Dealer’s annual preseason poll of Big Ten media, Nebraska finished first as the pick in the West, with Iowa second. The two tied for the most first-place votes.
Phil Steele, of college football yearbook fame and presumably fortune, picks Nebraska first and Iowa second. A reminder: He had Wisconsin first last year and eventual West champ Northwestern third.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
Yes, it’s the same Nebraska that went 4-8 last season. But it was 4-2 over the last half of the season and pushed Iowa to the last second before falling 31-28 at Kinnick Stadium with then-freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez pulling a lot of the right strings.
So what if so many people are right? What if Nebraska is everything many think it will be and if Iowa is all many think it could be? Well, that would make Black Friday pretty meaningful for everyone for a change, and what a deal that would be.
I kind of want to see what that would look like.
Having been to the first eight Black Fridays, I’d use this phrase to describe them: “Lacking in atmosphere.”
Friday isn’t a college football day and never has been. Here’s the correct schedule:
Fridays: High schools
Tuesdays and Wednesdays: The MAC
The college games on tap on Black Friday over the last several years seldom have featured a genuine marquee matchup. This year isn’t much different unless some of these teams are huge surprises. There’s Texas Tech-Texas, Missouri-Arkansas, West Virginia-TCU, Virginia Tech-Virginia, Boise State-Colorado State, South Florida-UCF and Cincinnati-Memphis.
And there’s Iowa-Nebraska. It might be the Game of the Day. It might be for a trip to Indianapolis and a shot at something bigger. It might be big, big, big, the kind of thing that makes 50 states stand up and take notice instead of the usual two.
It also might be just another game. If so, fine. Play it, put a bow on the season, then go home and watch the games that do matter the next day.
You know, Ohio State-Michigan, Alabama-Auburn, Florida State-Florida, Notre Dame-Stanford … Wisconsin-Minnesota?
What if the Wisconsin-Minnesota game is for the West title?
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
Or what if the Wisconsin-Minnesota game is for a share of first place in the West with the winner of the Iowa-Nebraska game, and the team that goes to Indianapolis depends on which combination of winners emerges?
Or what if Northwestern successfully navigates the Big Ten season for a second-straight year and bolts the door on a return trip to Indy?
Or what if Purdue goes nuts with Jeff Brohm doing more good things there?
Or what if Illinois ... just kidding.
You look at the West and you can see a slew of possibilities that seem quite possible. One of those is Iowa-Nebraska mattering. Is that a probability? No, not today. But it’s a long way to Thanksgiving and the day that follows. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be thankful for the good things in your lives today, just don’t spend a lot of time basting a turkey.