Iowa Football: Why the Season Comes Down To the Ohio State Game
November 20 was supposed to be the biggest day in the history of Iowa football. It was supposed to be the day that the Hawkeyes shocked the world. It was supposed to be a day that launched Iowa into the Rose Bowl, or better yet, the BCS National Championship. It was supposed to bring ESPN's College GameDay to town, and it was supposed to capture the college football world.
November 20 was supposed to be the day that the Iowa Hawkeyes hosted the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Big Ten Championship game. It was supposed to be the day that the two senior-laden Big Ten favorites put on a show on a national stage.
But in college football, nothing goes as it's supposed to.
Instead of hosting the Big Ten Championship game, Iowa will try to keep its hopes of a mere January bowl game alive this Saturday. And a team that had so much promise, a team that was supposed to compete for a National Championship, will try to save its chances of a 9-3 record.
After its loss last week to Northwestern, Iowa's chances to play in a BCS bowl are very slim, and to many, the season has been a failure. After all, the Wildcats are hosting College GameDay, the show that was supposed to come the Iowa City.
And even with two games to go, including that massive game against the Buckeyes, Iowa fans are already looking back at what could have been, wondering how such a talented and deep senior class let a season go to waste.
However, while Hawkeye fans are left pondering a "broken" season, the college football world has moved on. Ohio State is still coming to Iowa City on November 20. Yes, it has lost a bit of its luster, but this is still a huge game, especially for the 9-1 Buckeyes, who have lived up to their end of the deal.
And while all may seem lost for Iowa, the Hawkeyes still have plenty left to play for, too. A win would guarantee a spot in a January bowl, and in an already crazy season, a Capital One Bowl berth or a a BCS bowl bid are still remotely possible.
And for this senior class, a class that was supposed to lead the Hawkeyes onto the field this January in Glendale, Saturday's game is about pride. The season still comes down to November 20. It might not mean as much as it could have, but it still has great implications.
Beyond the bowl scenarios and the better record, Saturday's game means much more from a legacy standpoint for this Iowa team.
This senior class has been one of the most successful in Iowa history. Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, known in Iowa City as DJK, is statistically the best wide receiver to ever play for the Hawkeyes.
Quarterback Ricky Stanzi is the third-ranked passer in the country and has accumulated a 25-7 record as a starter. Adrian Clayborn is considered one of the best defensive linemen in the country and the entire defensive line may be the nation's best. The list goes on and on.
But no matter how good the stats are, people will forget them with an 8-4 season. People will forget the 2010 Orange Bowl and the turnaround season in 2008. It's not fair, but it's how the world works.
Iowa's seniors need this win to cement their legacy as one of the finest classes in school history. It would be a fitting send-off for such a talented group.
The native Ohioans on the roster, two in particular, will have some added motivation as well. Ricky Stanzi, a native of Mentor, Ohio, will get his first shot at his homestate team after sitting out last year's game due to injury.
DJK, a Youngstown native, was a huge Buckeye fan growing up, and told his Facebook friends that he is going to "give Kinnick a proper send off this weekend," adding that he "couldn't dream of a better Senior Day scenario."
November 20 still means something.
A victory against the Buckeyes would give Iowa its first signature victory of the season. Yes, the 37-6 obliteration of No. 5 Michigan State was nice, but a win against Ohio State would mean so much more in the grand scheme of things.
A win on November 20 would be more than just another "W." It would top off a legacy that the current seniors have built and would save a seemingly lost season.
There is still much more to play for. A season still hangs in the balance. Iowa's players know it. Regardless of last week's loss, November 20 is still circled in red.
And for all the disheartened Hawkeye fans, DJK has a message.
Because regardless of Iowa's record, a win on November 20 still would mean the world.
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