Thursday, November 24, 2011

"Black Friday": Huskers versus Iowa

When the whole "Heroes Sponsored by Hy-Vee" concept was announced this summer, it immediately rubbed me the wrong way. If there is one thing we learned from Nebraska's time in the Big XII, rivalries cannot be manufactured.  They grow organically, unlike what Bill McCartney tried to do at Colorado.  ABC and the Big XII tried to force the issue, but Nebraska fans never accepted Colorado as their rival.  When Colorado had a good team, it was a big game.  But when Colorado sucked, as they mostly have ever since McCartney retired, it wasn't.

So now we have another "rivalry" game with Iowa and Nebraska. It makes more sense geographically, because of the closer proximity of the two campuses and the population centers of the two states.  But frankly, it probably doesn't stand the test of competitiveness, which in my mind is the biggest reason for a rivalry.  Nebraska vs. Oklahoma became a rivalry because the games had a history of meaning a lot.  1971 Thanksgiving Day is "THE" game of the century, though the term is starting to become trivialized through overuse.  Iowa fans like to trumpet how Iowa has had more success in recent years than Nebraska, with more Top Ten rankings and better bowl berths. Except they forget one simple fact:  Iowa's record since the turn of the century is only marginally better than Nebraska's record.  Or to put it more simply:  Iowa's best decade of football is only marginally better than Nebraska's worst decade of football since the Eisenhower administration.

As such, I think this "rivalry" means more to Iowa fans than Nebraska fans.  Nebraska fans opinions are still jaded by the memories of 60-3 and national championships. Some fans even are ready to fire Bo Pelini after losing a third conference game of the season. Bottom line is that Nebraska fans expect their team to play at a higher level than Iowa currently or historically has. That's not a good basis for a mutual rivalry.  That being said, if either team raises the level of their play, that school probably won't consider this much of a rivalry either.  (Yes, Iowa fans...if Iowa becomes a consistent Big Ten and national contender, then yes, Iowa fans won't consider Nebraska a rival either.)

The "Heroes Game" designation is an interesting attempt to justify making the game something more than it actually is..but it has absolutely nothing to do with the matchup.  It's artificial.  It's not a bad thing to honor people who have made contributions to their community; it just has absolutely nothing to do with the football game.  So no matter what Hy-Vee and the athletic departments want us to think, I'm not going to use that moniker going forward.  (Not that I care what Hy-Vee thinks; I rarely shop there because despite it's proximity to my house, they are always have the highest prices and are typically out-of-stock of what I came there for.)  It's just as bad as that Legends/Leaders crap that Jim Delaney is trying to sell...

Leave it to the academic side of the house to come up with a better theme for this game.  On Facebook, the the two schools are having a little contest to get the most fans, calling it the "Race to Black Friday".  Once I saw it, it immediately resonated.  Black Friday - the day after Thanksgiving.  The Blackshirts.  Iowa's black uniforms.  It just fits. It's clean; it's a natural extension of the term everybody is using for the day anyway. Maybe it's not original, but unlike Farmageddon, it hasn't been used for a football game before.  (Dear Iowa fan... don't plagiarize Iowa State and Kansas State.)

So who's win the initial "Black Friday" game? On paper, my biased perspective favors the Huskers.  James Vandenberg is the type of quarterback the Blackshirts typically feast on.  Can the Huskers handle Marcus Coker?  That's the key battle in my mind.  Iowa's offense feeds off Coker setting up the combination of Vandenberg to wide receiver Marvin McNutt.  And if Alfonzo Dennard can lock up on McNutt, I like the Huskers in this situation.  Iowa's defense has a lot of holes this season, and really aren't outstanding at any position. The defensive line is missing the three guys they sent to the NFL last season...so I think this could be a good opportunity for the Husker offense to get untracked.

But it really comes down to who wants this game more.  Winner gets a couple of relatively meaningless trophies and a better bowl bid.  Fans get the bragging rights for a year.  But that's it.  And I'm not so sure that Nebraska fans really need the bragging rights; Husker fans just want to avoid listening to Squawkeye fans lording this over them for a year.  While Iowa did defeat both Northwestern and Michigan (two teams Nebraska lost to), they also lost to woeful Minnesota.  Again.

And most importantly, Iowa just doesn't seem to play well on the road this season.  So my prediction is Huskers 31, Iowegia 17.  We'll see how that works out tomorrow afternoon.  Have a great Thanksgiving, everyone!

1 comment:

Arch Stanton said...

Off topic, but anyone else really disappointed in Suh? Doesn't seem like the same guy we've all grown to know and love. Man up Suh!