There is no conference championship to play for. There is no bowl placement to play for.
There is no bowl to play for.
There is a rivalry, but it is something of a fake rivalry. Iowa fans may take it seriously, because Iowa fans suffered through 20 losing seasons in a row, while Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne built the premier football program in the country.
However, that was a while ago, and at this point, it's hard to believe Nebraska fans take the Iowa "rivalry" any more seriously than they took their erstwhile "rivalry" with Missouri—an annual contest they won every year from 1980-2001.
Iowa is 4-7 and will be staying home for the winter. The Hawkeyes are playing for nothing but pride and the future, and maybe, to spoil Nebraska's chances of winning the Big Ten Western Division.
Nonetheless, that doesn't mean there aren't some questions still on Iowa's table.
There will be plenty of time this offseason to dissect why James Vandenberg's senior season went up in flames.
Now is not the time to question whether it was awful play calling, overly conservative coaching, terrible receivers or just poor quarterbacking.
Now is the time to ask if the No. 2 quarterback will see the field this year.
Backup Jake Rudock, a redshirt freshman, has yet to see a snap, despite plenty of opportunity during the Penn State and Michigan fiascos—contests that were out of reach by the end of the third quarter, if not the half.
Vandenberg is a senior. He will not be coming back next year, and he doesn't have the ability to go pro, so his game tape is irrelevant.
At this point, JVB deserves to start and then go on to medical school, but with nothing tangible on the line, will the potential future finally get a shot?
Kirk Ferentz is loyal to a fault. His loyalty, in fact, has probably cost his program more than it has benefited it.
Nonetheless, the reality is this season is effectively over.
JVB, James Ferentz, Matt Tobin, Micah Hyde and all the other seniors are done.
A couple will have a shot at the NFL, but most will move on to a career off the gridiron.
Given the way Iowa has played the last few weeks, Nebraska will probably have a comfortable lead by halftime.
If that happens, will Ferentz keep his seniors on until the bitter end, or will Ferentz send out the younger players?
At the time of this writing, Stubhub has 1,932 Iowa-Nebraska tickets for sale. The seats range from a low of $60 to a high of $93.
This many tickets before a game is not unusual. Prices this low for a marquee matchup are unusual. One would expect tickets to start in the $100 range.
The problem is win or lose, this Iowa team is tedious to watch. It is not fun, it is not exciting and it is not entertaining. It is boring, sloppy, ugly football. Nobody wants to pay $60—let alone three figures—to be bored.
Meanwhile, Nebraska fans would travel to Mars for their team (as would Iowa fans in most years). They would certainly travel the five hours it takes to get from Lincoln to Iowa City in order to see the Huskers win their first Big Ten division championship.
In 2002, when Iowa won its own Big Ten championship, Hawkeye fans descended upon the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome and tore down the goalposts (via Marc Morehouse of the Cedar Rapids Gazette).
In 2012, will Kinnick Stadium get swallowed by a sea of red?
This is the big question, and it will go a long way towards determining if Ferentz has lost his team.
Win or lose, blown out or not, if the Hawks quit—or come out of the tunnel apathetically—this team is lost and that would make three lost teams in seven years (2006 and 2010 being the other two).
It will also be a clue as to whether there will be a spat of transfers this offseason, the surest sign as to whether the players still believe in Ferentz.
Let's hope not.
However much Iowa's awfulness upsets us—the fans—the players feel it 100 times worse. They have spent their last four or five years agonizing in the weight room, traveling, missing holidays and missing their families, having all of their mistakes analyzed in a public sphere. They've made millions for the University of Iowa athletic department, and they haven't gotten paid a dime for it.
If there were a way to boo Kirk Ferentz, offensive coordinator Greg Davis, defensive coordinator Phil Parker or especially athletic director Gary Barta, I'd be all for it,
The players don't deserve that sort of treatment.