Let’s use this weekend’s 10 sentences to connect the dots for how Hawkeyes-Cyclones might still happen this fall.
1. The State of Iowa let out a collective, “Noooooooooo,” Thursday afternoon when the Big Ten Conference announced it would cancel its nonconference football games and would exclusively play a conference-only season in 2020.
2. For the, ahem, Hawkeye State that of course meant that the annual Iowa-Iowa State football game would not happen this season, but I’m not so sure—in fact, although it isn’t likely, there is still an opportunity for the game to happen.
3. Here’s how it might work: The ACC and PAC-12 are expected to also go conference-only, but already there is buzz that the ACC’s Georgia Tech and SEC’s Georgia will find a way to play their scheduled contest.
4. That’s a rivalry game, obviously, but something has to push over the first domino to protect rivalry games, and this is it; from there, we have to start looking at rivalries that exist from one conference into another—such as Georgia- Georgia Tech, Clemson-South Carolina, Louisville-Kentucky, and Iowa-Iowa State—as opposed to intraconference rivalries that are preserved naturally through conference play, like Michigan-Ohio State, Texas-Oklahoma, and Florida State-Miami.
5. So Georgia-Georgia Tech could be that first domino, but nonconference rivalries alone are not compelling enough reasons to build one nonconference game into the schedule; there must be a second motivator.
6. This is where we have to start thinking about Notre Dame—America’s last great independent college football program—which, on paper anyway, could find itself without anyone to play this season if the major conferences go to conference-only schedules.
7. It’s hard—impossible, even—to imagine a college football season in which Notre Dame sits out, or is forced out, or whatever one chooses to call it, and so one can see a scenario happening where Wisconsin would get permission to play its Oct. 3 game against Notre Dame, and from there Michigan could say, “Wait, in that case we want our game against Washington!”
8. The Big Ten and other conferences cave—because money money money—and Iowa gets the opportunity to get its Sept. 12 matchup against the Cyclones back on the schedule, which should make Senator Grassley happy.
9. The remaining hurdle, unfortunately, is about 100 feet high, and that is the reality of COVID-19, which is barreling through the United States right now at such a juggernautic pace that the likelihood of any college football being played this fall decreases by the minute (the NFL has a far greater chance of playing than the NCAA because NFL players and their families can be quarantined like the NBA currently is doing, while college players will have to go to class and share classrooms and dorms with students who might not be as careful with the virus as they are).
10. Many countries around the world took COVID seriously, attacked it with such fervor that they are starting to emerge from the fog, but the United States is not one of those countries and because of that is faced with numerous potentially catastrophic outcomes; losing college football is not a catastrophe, contextually speaking, but it would completely suck, so we might as well come to grips with it now, because it’s going to take a miracle (or potentially terrible judgment) for the Hawkeyes to actually play this fall—possibly even against the Cyclones.
* Talk with David Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.