Iowa Football

Iowa football Tuesday Takeoff: The rise and stall of the Big Ten West

It's not quite what we all thought it might be in 2019

Wisconsin athletics director Barry Alvarez before the Iowa versus Wisconsin game at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 23, 2010, in Iowa City. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Wisconsin athletics director Barry Alvarez before the Iowa versus Wisconsin game at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 23, 2010, in Iowa City. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

I think we all thought the Big West would be much cooler than it is.

Oh, we are going to take a shovel to my predictions. First, we need to dig them up. It was, after all, July. And I’ll just say this, I was under the influence of rhubarb. My wife grows it in the backyard and we have joyful baked rhubarb goods this time of year.

That’s my excuse.

Here’s how I picked the West.

1. Iowa

2. Nebraska

3. Northwestern

4. Wisconsin

... We’re not even to the Gophers yet ...

5. Purdue

6. Minnesota

7. Illinois

So far, I have one right. Too bad this isn’t one of those “The Price is Right” games where I get a chance to redo everything.

Let’s do a sit rep on each of these teams, but I generally think we all expected more. Money has been spent on coaching and facilities.

OK, maybe not a lot more, but more. I also think no one saw this domination coming from the Badgers.

Illinois — Officially not helping

The Illini did start 2-0. You thought maybe Lovie Smith might’ve grad transferred his way to a bowl game.

Then, the losing started.

Eastern Michigan coach Chris Creighton has played and beaten Illinois, so he’s probably not going to take the job. Poured it out against Nebraska, came up short. Couldn’t stop Minnesota’s offense. Michigan.

It’s Wisconsin this week. Everyone enjoy Lovie while you can.

Iowa — Danger, Will Robinson

Yes, I referenced a robot from a 1960s TV show. That is one of the more obvious reasons I should be moving along. I’m using way too many references that were “filmed in Panavision.”

Anyway, say it with me, Iowa’s season isn’t over ... six games left ... three trophy games. You are not out of the Division race until you have three losses, IMO. If Iowa snaps losing streaks against Purdue and at Northwestern, it will have a chance to joust with the Badgers. That’ll be judgment day, good or bad.

So, danger, 1960s robot character.

Minnesota — The bright spot

I wrote that, yeah, P.J. Fleck’s style is abrasive and simply not for everyone. I also wrote he showed real football acumen last year, firing his DC and crushing the Badgers in the season finale, snapping a 15-year losing streak.

Quality wins? Maybe at Fresno State. Definitely the way they beat Nebraska. It’s Rutgers and Maryland the next two weeks. Then, it’s Penn State, Iowa, Northwestern and Wisconsin.

So far, so good. We’ll see.

Nebraska — The disappointment

I did talk with a few Nebraska radio people at Big Ten media days. They were realistic. They first noted the 4-8 record from 2018. They saw a red flag and offered 8-4 as something to shoot for.

The outside world had other ideas. I thought I was showing restraint by only picking the Huskers second. I fell in love with the schedule.

The Huskers can still hit eight. It doesn’t feel right now like they’re built to compete with Wisconsin and Iowa. Not sure when that’s going to happen.

This is Scott Frost’s second year. Not worth it to jump to any conclusions yet.

Northwestern — One of those years

Northwestern is a lot like Iowa in that, when it’s clicking, it wins close games. There’s a 50/50 nature to this, as you, an Iowa fan, knows very well.

At 1-4, getting to a bowl game is going to take perfection. That’s a tough ask for this offense. The defense will keep the Cats in games and it will definitely do that against Iowa in two weeks.

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Purdue — Wait, what?

No Rondale Moore? Forget it then.

Kidding. This is Jeff Brohm’s third year. He gets defense, it’s just the Boilers are young on that side of the ball.

Oh, they’re also on their second QB this year. And Rondale Moore is hurt and likely out for the second straight week.

This isn’t the Purdue we thought we’d get. At 2-4, it’s going to have to get on a streak to make a bowl game.

Wisconsin — Here we go again

Sigh, welp.

It’s time to steal the recipe. 1) Hire a defensive coach. With Paul Chryst at around 53, he’s not going anywhere soon. Defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard maybe wants to be a head coach. He’s 36. It’s probably not going to happen at Wisconsin. Hire Jim Leonhard. He’s the defense. This might be good for a defense-first school.

2) Make sure the AD understands how important football is and does everything in their power to fuel and develop football.

You need a Barry Alvarez.

Someone has to steal the Badgers’ recipe. And not the one for bacon-wrapped fried cheese curds.

Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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