Dec. 20, 2005
If the odds makers are correct, the Big Ten is going to take a bath in the upcoming bowl games.
Six Big Ten teams will play in post-season contests, and only one is expected to win. Purdue is a 7-point favorite to beat Arizona State in the Sun Bowl.
Iowa is one of five Big Ten underdogs. LSU has been established as a 6 l/2-point favorite to beat the Hawkeyes in the Capital One Bowl.
Other Big Ten underdogs are Ohio State, by 2 l/2 points to Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl; Minnesota, by 4 points to Alabama in the Music City Bowl; Wisconsin, by 7 points to Georgia in the Outback Bowl; and Michigan, by 5 l/2 points to Texas in the Rose Bowl.
If there are no upsets in those games, Big Ten teams will come through the 2004 bowl season with a miserable 1-5 record, the worst since 1984, when the conference had the same post-season mark.
In recent years, the Big Ten has enjoyed success in the bowls. In 1998 the record was 5-0, and it was 5-2 in both 1999 and 2002. Eight conference teams got bowl invitations last year and finished at 3-5.
It’s interesting to note that this year three of the six Big Ten bowl-bound teams, including Iowa, will meet opponents from the Southeastern Conference, and all are expected to lose. Is the SEC that much stronger than the Big Ten? We shall see.
Being a post-season underdog is not new to the Hawkeyes. Hayden Fry’s teams had that role at the 1995 Sun Bowl and waltzed past Washington 38-18, and again at the 1996 Alamo Bowl and blanked Texas Tech 27-0.
“It’s puzzling why Iowa’s game with LSU in Orlando is not viewed as a toss-up, since the two teams mirror one another. Both have a 9-2 record, both won several close games, both suffered an early lop-sided defeat, and both are on a winning streak. The fact that Iowa had a better finish in the Big Ten (shared first place) than LSU did in the SEC (second in its division) did not sway the odds makers.”
Kirk Ferentz’s Hawkeyes have won two post-season games, both as underdogs. They nipped Texas Tech 19-16 in the 2001 Alamo Bowl, and embarrassed Florida 37-17 in the Outback Bowl last January.
It’s puzzling why Iowa’s game with LSU in Orlando is not viewed as a toss-up, since the two teams mirror one another. Both have a 9-2 record, both won several close games, both suffered an early lop-sided defeat, and both are on a winning streak. The fact that Iowa had a better finish in the Big Ten (shared first place) than LSU did in the SEC (second in its division) did not sway the odds makers.
What would sway them is a move by LSU Coach Nick Saban to the Miami Dolphins. He is in serious talks with that NFL team, and seemingly has one foot in the warm waters off South Beach. If Saban takes the Miami job, as some expect him to, the line on the Capitol One Bowl most likely will go down.
“In fact, the game might go off the board,” says a friend of mine who closely follows behavior in Las Vegas betting parlors. “Odds makers do not like uncertainty, and a coaching change going into a bowl game creates real uncertainty.”
POST-SEASON HONORS – The 2004 Hawkeyes, who captured a share of the Big Ten crown, did not pick up nearly as many honors as their 2002 predecessors, who also tied for the league title.
This year five Hawkeyes – Drew Tate, Matt Roth, Chad Greenway, Abdul Hodge and Jonathon Babineaux — won first-team all-Big Ten honors. Only Roth was accorded first-team all-America status.
Two years ago 11 Hawkeyes were first team all-Big Ten and five made at least one all-America first team. Plus that, Brad Banks was named college football Player of the Year by the Associated Press, Dallas Clark won the Mackey award as the nation’s best tight end, and Nate Kaeding won the Groza Award as the nation’s best kicker.
Perhaps this year Kirk Ferentz and his staff did more with less, or did it with mirrors, or something. However you slice it, it was another great season. The current Hawkeyes did not reap as many rewards, but they have a chance to achieve something the 2002 team did not – victory in a bowl game.
QUOTABLE HAWKEYES – Matt Roth is closing out a brilliant football career for the Hawkeyes, and Crystal Smith has led the women’s basketball team to a perfect record and place in the Top 25. Both outstanding athletes are highly quotable.
When ESPN asked Roth how Iowa managed to hand Miami of Ohio its only loss of the 2003 season, he replied, “Two words — Iowa Hawkeye pride.”
When the Des Moines Register asked Smith what she would ban from the UI curriculum, she responded, “American history, because it goes really, really deep until like the beginning of history.”
AND FINALLY – Sports Illustrated calls Iowa the “biggest surprise” of the 2004 football season . . . Iowa is making its first trip to Orlando’s bowl game, LSU its second . . . Iowa owns a 3-2 all-time record against teams from the SEC but has never played LSU . . . LSU is 6-3-1 against the Big Ten . . . Kirk Ferentz and Nick Saban were on the same coaching staff for the Cleveland Browns in the early 1990s . . . Iowa won three games this season by a total of six points, LSU won four games by 11 points . . . Iowa is making its 20th bowl appearance. In the Big Ten only Michigan and Ohio State, with 36 each, have more . . . Iowa seniors have won 37 games the last four seasons . . . Iowa and Michigan are both 20-4 in Big Ten games the past three years, best in the league . . . There are only 15 seniors on Iowa’s bowl roster, but four are slated to start on offense and six on defense. Punter David Bradley is also a senior. Coach Ferentz has some spots to fill next season.
Editor’s Note: George Wine, the University of Iowa’s long-time sports information director who is now retired and living in Coralville, Iowa, is the author of George Wine Online. George has remained very close to the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI since his retirement and, in fact, has authored two books during that time. The first was a collaboration with the subject of today’s editorial, Hayden Fry, and named “A High Porch Picnic.” The second, “Black & Gold Memories, The Hawkeyes of the 20th Century,” included many of the essays George originally wrote for “The Voice of the Hawkeyes.” As he wrote in the book, “Collectively, they serve as a historical reference, and hopefully provide entertaining reading.” “Black & Gold Memories” is currently available at Barnes & Noble book stores across Iowa and on the world wide web.