By Chris Hassel
Most years we get to dip our toes in the college football water before jumping in. This year, some big 300 pound dude picked us up and threw us in the deep end with no floaties on. Iowa, Iowa State, and Northern Iowa, all open up the season with tough match-ups — and all kick off at the same time, no less. Three games, four hours, one heart-stopper after another.
Let’s begin in Chicago where the Hawks were 10-point favorites over Northern Illinois. For the first 55 minutes, it looked like NIU was the team favored by double-digits. James Vandenberg was a basket case away from home, last season, and that didn’t change at Soldier Field. JVB was bad. So was the pass-blocking on the o-line. Damon Bullock, Mike Meyer, and the entire Iowa punting unit, were the differences in the game. Some think it’s time to hit the panic button. I don’t. The last time Iowa won an opener over an “inferior” team was in 2009, against UNI. Iowa went on to have a pretty good season.
Up in Ames, the Cyclones were nothing short of impressive. Steele Jantz was the quarterback Paul Rhoads hoped he was going to be. He made a handful of dazzling plays, and he cut down on his miscues. Iowa State looked nothing like a one-point underdog. Tulsa was over-matched, and out-played. The Cyclones look good, but (just like with Iowa) let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Last year, ISU looked bad in its opener against UNI. Iowa looked great against Tennessee Tech. Did it matter? Nope. History has shown us that, when it comes to the Cy-Hawk game, expect the unexpected.
I’ve already mentioned a pair of heart-breaking defeats for Northern Iowa over the last few years, and we can chalk up another in 2012. For the third time in four years, the Panthers had a BCS opponent on the ropes in its home stadium, and for the third time in four years, UNI came up just short. The Panthers trailed 12th-ranked Wisconsin by 19 points in the fourth quarter, but it was far from over. Sawyer Kollmorgen and David Johnson hooked up for a pair of long touchdowns as Wisconsin saw its lead shrink to 5. UNI had the ball in Badger territory with 3 minutes to play, but a 4th-and-1 pass was deflected at the line and fell incomplete. The Panthers have what it takes to compete with anyone. One of these days, they’re going to get it done. Perhaps it will be later in the month in Iowa City.
We’ve been waiting for it for 9 months, and it’s finally here. Happy college football season, everyone!