The Insight Bowl between Missouri and Iowa features two teams separated only by a measly state border, but that doesn’t mean the Tigers and Hawkeyes are at all familiar with one another.
Having not played one another since 1910, the two sides entered into an agreement several years ago to play a four-game series beginning in 2005, but the accord was struck down by Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel, who feared Iowa’s clout would stunt the early growth of his program.
So, here we are an even-numbered 100 years removed from the last meeting, and the two are prepared to square off in Tempe, Ariz., where a victory Tuesday night holds a number of immediate and far-reaching ramifications.
Often times, effects of a bowl loss on the following season are far too overblown. Exhibit A is Missouri’s 10-win regular season after getting embarrassed by Navy in the Texas Bowl last December.
But not enough is said of how powerful the inverse can be. With a win at Sun Devil Stadium, either Missouri or Iowa will enter the final phases of the recruiting season and segue into spring ball on a high that can last through the summer.
More importantly, a bowl win—or loss—can have a huge effect on the following season’s initial polls. Case in point, Missouri, with only three starters departed from an eight-win team the year previous, was left off most preseason Top 25 ballots, presumably because of the Texas Bowl thumping.
A win this time around would likely give the Tigers, who are currently ranked No. 12 in the BCS and lose only six players on the entire two-deep, a prominent place in the preseason polls for 2011.
The opposite was true for Iowa, which began this season ranked ninth after finishing off an 11-2 season in 2009 with a win in the Orange Bowl. As for this season, the Hawkeyes can put a stop to what has been a roller-coaster ride and somewhat lighten up a rough few weeks of player arrests, defections, and suspensions.
Rekindling of an Old Fire?
The century-long absence of this rivalry doesn’t mean there isn’t a history between the two sides. Or even a little bad blood. In fact, it was a bit of animosity—not to mention incidences of race—that ultimately put the game to rest.
Regardless of which team wins this particular matchup, officials from both sides may be prompted to strongly consider renewing an acquaintance that was met 12 times in 20 years prior to and after the turn of the 20th century.
Given the current performance of each program, it would be a noteworthy game of not only regional but national interest, and provide the Big 12 and Big Ten with an intriguing non-conference contest.
Alas, conference jumbling may put a damper on any potential agreements. Beginning in 2011, Missouri will play a nine-game, round-robin schedule within the Big 12, leaving one less space for a non-conference opponent, let alone one as prominent as Iowa.
A Step Ahead on the Recruiting Trail
The proximity between the two campuses being what it is, it’s only natural that Missouri and Iowa often overlap recruiting circles. And it’s evident on the current rosters. St. Louis native Adrian Clayborn was heavily recruited by Pinkel and his staff before committing to the Hawkeyes, as was fellow defensive lineman Christian Ballard from Lawrence, Kan., another Missouri recruiting territory.
Brothers Dan and Matt Hoch—a junior offensive tackle and redshirt freshman tight end—are both Iowa natives and even verbally committed to Kirk Ferentz before reneging late in the recruiting game in favor of Mizzou.
As long as these two schools continue to field football programs, they’ll continue to compete for recruits. But the winner of this game could certainly enhance its status with recruits who are currently considering both programs.
Altering Draft Plans
This pertains more to Missouri than Iowa, which is laden with upperclassmen, many of whom are entering the draft.
Looking at the most current depth chart, the Tigers lose only five starters to graduation, but as many as four other starters from this year’s team want to at least gauge their NFL potential.
It was reported several weeks ago that junior quarterback Blaine Gabbert, junior All-American tight end Michael Egnew, redshirt sophomore defensive end Aldon Smith and junior defensive end Jacquies Smith all plan to seek an appraisal from the NFL Draft Advisory Committee to get an idea of what round they would be selected if they opted to enter the draft.
None of the four has indicated he would leave if given a favorable assessment, but how would a rousing victory over Iowa, and the subsequent lofty expectations and excitement for 2011, alter any draft aspirations, if at all?
A Right To Brag
Schools from neighboring states, separated by less than 250 miles, are set to play each other on national television in what is becoming one of the more lucrative games on the bowl schedule.
Who cares if Missouri and Iowa haven’t played since before World War I and won’t play again until after they both become members for gargantuan Big 18 in 2030?
This is for bragging rights, first and foremost.