It is that time in the college football season when hope may have begun to fade for those teams whose ambitions exceeded their ability to deliver—whose luck has run out.
Often, it is hard not to relive those accumulated missed tackles, extra points and dropped passes.
This inclination might allow disappointment to saturate a team’s outlook in the one or two remaining games because winning now seems not to make a difference.
A single victory cannot take you to that pinnacle you imagined in your future at the beginning of the season.
This is a state of mind that a good coaching staff immediately nips in the bud because every time a college football team walks out on the field, the players make a statement about themselves, their program and the school.
Ending well is every bit as important as beginning well. Kirk Ferentz and staff will bring that point home.
As to the charge of being a "spoiler," winning games is the goal each and every game during the entire season. Iowa has as much to play for against Ohio State as they did against Northwestern.
Each week the team that wins, is a spoiler.
So being called one now is redundant. Every contest this weekend will celebrate some spoiler’s victory at the end of the game.
The goal to win is exactly what will inspire the Iowa Hawkeyes to upend the Ohio State Buckeyes in Week 12.
There is something left to prove in Kinnick Stadium because now it is time to reverse the trend.
The Iowa-Ohio State rivalry has been considerably one-sided, in case you were not aware of that fact. If you are a die hard Iowa fan, this reality could not possibly have escaped your keen, discerning mind over the years.
The two teams met for the first time back in November of 1922. As of 2009, Iowa stands at 14-45-3 against Ohio State.
It is not a pretty statistic. In fact, there was one ugly span of 20 years of losing to the Buckeyes from 1963 through 1982.
Hayden Fry finally engineered a victory in 1983. He was knighted by the Iowa fans forever for that win. Columbus went into shock.
Since 1962, Iowa is 5-32-1 against Ohio State. In fact, Iowa has not defeated the Buckeyes since 2004.
True, the two teams did not play each other in 2007 and 2008.
But, last year’s encounter with the Buckeyes proved to be another in a long list of heart-breakers for the Hawks as they took Ohio State to overtime under the leadership of back-up quarterback James Vandenberg.
They lost when Ohio State intercepted a Vandenberg pass in overtime and subsequently were able to kick a field goal to escape 27-24. Iowa fans suffered anguish once more in the Horseshoe.
Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi had been injured the previous week in the first quarter of the Northwestern game. The Hawkeyes went on to lose their first game of the season to the dreaded Wildcats.
Prior to the Northwestern game, Iowa was undefeated. The overtime loss to the Buckeyes turned Iowa’s 2009 season into the familiar status of also-ran.
It is time to stand up and shout—Enough! It is time for Iowa to proudly assume the mantle of a winner by taking the rest of the games in 2010. Then pray soulfully for a decent bowl bid.
Hawks and Hawkeye fans—do you wish to reverse the trend and upend Ohio State this Saturday when they invade Kinnick Stadium?
This is the year to do it.
Ohio State will count on the traditional intimidation factor to set in. But there is no reason. There is a crack in the Ohio armor.
The Buckeyes have revealed that they are vulnerable on the road. The vaunted Ohio State offense has been a bit skittered by the opposition at times.
So far in 2010 the Buckeyes have defeated one ranked team, Miami, back when the Canes were ranked No. 12. The only other ranked team that Ohio State met, the Wisconsin Badgers, defeated them easily 18-31.
Their offense remains a bit suspect. When the Buckeyes finally took the lead over Penn State in the third quarter last weekend, it was their defense that scored on two interceptions to turn the tide in that game.
Moreover, that contest was in front of the Buckeye’s home-town fans in Columbus.
By the same token, Iowa will be looking to play their fifth ranked team this season. The games when Iowa did not bring home a victory were games the Hawkeyes lost—not that the opposing team won.
When Iowa needed to be aggressive and down right mean spirited, they could not. Consequently, Iowa lost in the waning moments of each game when the Hawks let the other team lift its head off the turf.
This happened against ranked Arizona in Tucson, then against No.10 ranked Wisconsin as well as against Northwestern in Evanston last Saturday.
This is what transpires when you play not to lose as contrasted to playing to win. It appeared for most of the season, Iowa did exactly that, playing careful, controlled football and it cost them at times, especially on defense when trying to hang onto a lead.
More than that, however, was the substandard play on special teams at critical junctures.
Iowa defeated a No. 22 ranked Penn State early in the season and then No. 5 ranked Michigan State—both games inside Kinnick Stadium. They can do it. We have seen them at their best.
The Buckeyes are playing their fourth road game of the year. Even though they traditionally are an excellent road team, this year they have looked a little wobbly except on the road at Minnesota—where they won 52-10.
Ohio State had to come from behind to defeat Illinois 24-13. It was not an easy victory over an improving Illinois squad. Terrell Pryor suffered a leg injury and was not fully mobile during the game but managed to lead the Buckeyes past the Illini in the end.
Ohio State’s other road trip to Madison was a disaster. Ranked No. 1, the Buckeyes fell infamously to the Badgers 31-18. Wisconsin did everything better that night.
What Iowa must do Saturday is think of the victory over the Buckeyes as the ultimate prize of the 2010 season—the beginning of a new era.
In 2011 the only way the Hawkeyes will meet Ohio State is in the Big Ten Championship Game after the Hawkeyes knock off Penn State and Nebraska on the road and Northwestern at home.
The fun just never stops when you set the record straight at the beginning of a new era in Big Ten football.