Schwartz: Ten Sentences – Spoiler Edition

November 24, 2019

Written by David Schwartz

Hawkeye Nation

The Hawkeyes defeated Illinois 19-10 on Saturday in a game that is better to forget than investigate, so let’s look ahead to the regular-season finale. Ten sentences:

1. A week ago the Hawkeyes spoiled Minnesota’s perfect season, and now they stand five days away from the regular-season finale at Nebraska, a game that will determine whether the Huskers qualify for a bowl game for the first time since 2016.

2. An Iowa win would mark their fifth straight in the series and sixth in the last seven years, but if you’re looking for a jolt of instant gratification, consider that an Iowa win, which has a better than 50/50 chance of happening, sinks Nebraska’s bowl hopes by guaranteeing a below-.500 finish.

3. The Big Ten has tried to force the Iowa-Nebraska rivalry down our throats since Nebraska joined the conference in 2011, but rivalries take time – the Lakers and Celtics played their first game against each other on Nov. 9, 1948, and it took well beyond Nov. 10, 1949 for the rivalry to become the most storied in NBA history; it took decades – and if Iowa can extinguish the hope of a bowl game in Scott Frost’s second season as coach, a blow to how a program can measure progress, it will be another step toward a rivalry becoming a legitimate rivalry.

4. The 8-3 Hawkeyes will open as the favorite against the 5-6 Huskers, but before we get too far ahead of ourselves thinking of how fun it would be to beat Nebraska again, let’s remember that Iowa also has much at stake Friday in Lincoln.

5. And Nebraska has much to gain: not only would they take a step forward by qualifying for a low-level bowl, they would do so by beating a ranked team that has had their number for several years.

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6. As for the Hawkeyes, they risk suffering a loss to a struggling program in the final week of the regular season, hardly an attractive look when you’re trying to sneak into the upper tier of Big Ten-connected bowl games.

7. They risk transferring the momentum in the series back to Nebraska; they risk Nate Stanley’s perfect record as a starter against the Huskers; they risk demoralizing a fanbase that already realizes this is one of the softest 8-3 power-conference teams in the country – a team that hasn’t clicked on offense since the 2018 season.

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8. Which means we’ve got a rare situation in front of us: usually the team with the worse record is the one that tries to play spoiler, but the 2019 edition of the Iowa-Nebraska early-stage rivalry features two teams that occupy potential spoiler positions.

9. Nebraska can play spoiler by virtue of its poor record contrasted with Iowa’s strong positioning in the conference, while Iowa can play spoiler by stepping on the throat of Nebraska’s hope and progress.

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10. Together this leaves me high strung about Friday’s matchup, and I don’t know whether I worry the Huskers might win because I actually think they can win or I just worry about what a loss could mean for Iowa; either way the annual post-Thanksgiving day series continues to simmer, waiting for the day, which eventually will come, that Iowa-Nebraska becomes, beyond the shadow of a doubt, a rivalry.

* Talk with David Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.

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