Hawk Talk Daily: Random Thoughts

Jan. 6, 2014


IOWA CITY, Iowa – Random thoughts on the first Sunday of the New Year…



It’s only fifth day of January and Iowa’s two basketball teams have really big games on their schedules today. That’s not to say every game isn’t a big game for Lisa and Fran’s squads when the opponent is a Big Ten Conference opponent, but today’s contests are important and for different reasons. Bluder’s Bunch entertains the Penn State Nittany Lions on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena today at 2 p.m. Iowa needs this one. It needed it a week ago, but it needs it even more today after having fallen to the unbeaten Indiana Hoosiers Thursday night in Bloomington. 0-2 starts in league play aren’t season-killers, but they aren’t desirable either. Fran’s team is in Madison today for a game against the nationally ranked Badgers from Wisconsin. Or should I be much more accurate and say the No. 4 ranked Wisconsin Badgers. A victory today in Madtown would prove a couple of things very true: First, a win at Wisconsin stamps a big “For Real” on the Hawkeyes for those who aren’t quite sure this team is in the mix for a Big Ten regular season title. It is, by the way. And, two, a win today would also serve notice nationally that, yes, the Big Ten is the Big Ten once again. It’s loaded. It’s a grind. And, come March, it will be a conference that will have a say as to who advances to the Final Four.

And, if you’re heading to Carver today for the women’s game, please remember is a “Be Bold, Wear Gold” event!

Speaking of advancing to the Final Four, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi is widely recognized as the most genius of all the geniuses who, 10 or so months out from the event, predicts – quite remarkably accurately, I might add – the field of 60-something for the next NCAA men’s basketball championship. So, where am I headed? Well, I took a peek at Lundardi’s most recent “Bracketology” – HERE – and noted this: Five of Iowa’s six opponents in the run to last year’s NIT championship game in Madison Square Garden are, according to Lunardi – NCAA Tournament-bound this March. Lunardi has Iowa as the 6 seed in the Midwest and playing Arkansas in the opening round with the winner likely meeting 3 seed Duke. When I saw “Stony Brook” and decided to check to see how many of Iowa’s 2013 NIT opponents were in the mix, I have to admit I thought it would be two or three. Now, when you see five with the only team not listed being a very good 2012-13 Virginia team, it tells you this: Iowa was playing some really, really, really good basketball at crunch time last year.

Oops. One more thought on the Outback Bowl: Hawk fans, you owned Tampa and you owned Raymond James Stadium and, make no mistake, it was noted by everyone, including the decision-makers at the Big Ten Conference’s existing and new bowl game destinations. Loud and proud – even in the rain and, more importantly and impressively, even in defeat.

The 2014 Outback Bowl is now days in the rear view mirror, so it’s ancient news in this world of 24-7-365 instant news. Here’s my two cents on the event: First, the loss does nothing to diminish the success of the 2013 Hawkeyes. Zippo. None. Nada. To go from four wins to eight wins was impressive and wins Nos. 7 and 8 were particularly impressive and helped push Iowa into the coveted New Year’s Day slot. A loss in a game on the first day of a new year doesn’t take the shine off that shoe. Second, the loss only strengthens my long-held belief to listen closely to what our head coach has to say. He’s the one that told us quite plainly that (a) LSU was very, very, very good and (b) a victory by Iowa was only going to come with a pretty close to perfect performance by Iowa. Third, what can I write about our senior linebackers that hasn’t already been written? Absolutely nothing. So I’ll simply put the pen down on that topic and give a tip of the fedora to three outstanding young men. And, finally, fourth: It seems very reasonable to me to think 2013 was an important stepping stone to what could be a fun ride in 2014. Sure, there is lots of work to be done – there always is – but given all that is to be considered, e.g. who’s coming back, who’s behind the curtain, who we play and when and where, and the positive energy that today surrounds the program and, most importantly, radiates at its core, it makes no sense to me to think anything but good thoughts about what is ahead. The only suggestion I’d make to fans like you and me is that we don’t wish away time and start talking seriously college football until, say, at least the day after the 2013 college football champion has been crowned.

Oops. One more thought on the Outback Bowl: Hawk fans, you owned Tampa and you owned Raymond James Stadium and, make no mistake, it was noted by everyone, including the decision-makers at the Big Ten Conference’s existing and new bowl game destinations. Loud and proud – even in the rain and, more importantly and impressively, even in defeat.

And, lastly, if you haven’t checked out all the great stuff at our “Outback Bowl Central,” this is my final invitation to do so: HERE. As always, it’s an impressive collection that compares favorably to all of our peers who had teams participate in this year’s bowl season.

According to the National Football Foundation, two important pieces of college football history happened this week, both in hotels: On Jan. 11, 1895 at Chicago’s Palmer House Hotel, the seeds for the creation of the Big Ten Conference were first sewn when then-Purdue president James H. Smart and leaders from Chicago, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern and Wisconsin set out to organize and develop regulations for intercollegiate athletics. At the meeting, a basis for the control and administration of college athletics was outlined. Their first known action “restricted eligibility for athletics to bona fide, full-time students who were not delinquent in their studies.” That important decision, along with others that would follow, served as the foundation for amateur intercollegiate athletics. On Jan. 12, 1906 at the Murray Hill Hotel in New York City, another blockbuster event occurred: The American Intercollegiate Football Rules Committee met and the biggest rule change was the legalization of the forward pass, something Hall of Fame coach John Heisman had been lobbying to make happen since 1903. Among the other rule changes made for the 1906 season were the creation of the neutral zone and reducing the game from 70 minutes to two 30-minute halves. Also, teams had to gain 10 yards in three plays rather than five yards for a first down, and the field would now be marked with lines every five yards. Although the forward pass was now legal, an incomplete pass would result in a 15-yard penalty and a pass could not be caught more than 20 yards past the line of scrimmage.

By the way, I think it is extremely nice of the good guys at Kellogg’s to have left unfrosted strawberry Pop Tarts the lone option in the grocery aisle for those of us who don’t need their pop tarts frosted.

I think I’ve shared this link before: HERE. It’s to the web site for the new College Football Playoff. And, speaking of “College Football Playoff”… I wonder how quickly the “College Football Playoff” becomes the “CFP”? You know, like the “Bowl Championship Series” became the “BCS”. I believe those of us in the business have been asked to not refer to the CFP by anything but the “College Football Playoff” but, as you can see, it’s so much easier to type “CFP” than “College Football Playoff” that we all should know it’s just a matter of when – not if – the acronym becomes the norm.

By the way, the first championship game in the College Football Playoff will be played on Monday, Jan. 12, 2015 in the house that Jerry built. Wouldn’t it be fun to be a part of that history-in-the-making event? And, by the way, that’s not a prediction…just a random thought. It would, in fact, be fun to be part of that history-in-the-making event, don’t you think?

So, think about this for a second…just how many college football fans, media, players, coaches, and experts across this great land of ours were bold enough way back in August to think this would happen: Both Nick Saban and Urban Meyer would spend the winter of 2014 saddled with the headaches that come with ending their respective seasons with back-to-back losses. Not many, I’m sure.

Tom Brands‘ squad moved to 2-0 in Big Ten Conference action last night with a victory over Michigan State on Mediacom Mat in Carver. You can read about that win HERE.

The next football coach at Texas? Heck, I don’t know. The news last night was that Louisville’s Charlie Strong would be announced as the new head Longhorn sometime today. I do know this: Regardless if it is Strong or another, they will have a difficult time matching the work done by their predecessor. You guys know that I was a big Mack Brown fan. I’m even more so now given how he handled his last few weeks in charge of one of the grandest programs in college football. In my opinion,Texas fans — and a few others — would be wise to look around at how much talent there is scattered across the various power conferences and acknowledge that appearances in college football’s final four probably will not come easy.

I’m sure many of you would agree that college football’s rule makers need to take a look at how quickly “injured” student-athletes can return to the playing field. I’m pretty certain it will be a topic of discussion when the appropriate folks meet during the off-season. Perhaps it’s as simple as this: If the game is halted to provide medical attention to and/or assist a player off the field that player can’t return to the game until the next change of possession.

The next football coach at Penn State? Heck, I don’t know. I do know this: While his stay was short, Bill O’Brien did a remarkable job under very unique circumstances for the Nittany Lions and Pennsylvania State University and its many friends and fans. In my opinion, because O’Brien did his job so well, the person who follows him has a very good chance to pick up exactly where he left off.

I bumped into John Streif yesterday while racing through the mall. John was doing what he does best: Keeping up a steady and fast pace while talking on his cell phone. He looked great. “We were right there,” he said with a smile when our talk-as-we-walk conversation turned to the football Hawkeyes’ recent visit to Tampa. “Proud of them. Very, very proud of all of them, Can’t wait for next year,” he added between big smiles.

Lastly, I believe were just about sold out for the remainder of the men’s basketball season with one exception: Thursday night’s game against Northwestern. You can order your game tickets online HERE And, if you’re among the first 1,500 through the gates, you’ll walk away with this your very own Rock ‘n Roll Fran McCaffery bobblehead. Good stuff, to say the least.

Go Hawks!

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