If you’re a Hawkeye fan, by now you know exactly what’s at stake: win Black Friday and win the Big Ten West. Mind business in a game where the DraftKings have favored Sportsbook Iowa by 10.5 points and the Hawkeyes are heading to Indianapolis for the second straight season.
It’s a wild turn from where this team was a month ago. Almost as wild was the turnaround in fan sentiment during this period. A month ago, Hawkeye fans were in general agreement that this Iowa team was ready to end the year under .500 for the first time since 2014.
Coincidentally, this was the last time the Nebraska Cornhuskers defeated the Hawkeyes. Now those same Cornhuskers travel to Iowa City with a 3-8 record and their second head coach of the season and fourth since last win against Iowa, the only between the Hawkeyes and a division title.
Iowa fans are feeling good about Friday’s chances despite the desperation of just a few weeks ago. Of respondents to this week’s SB Nation Reacts poll, 93% expect Iowa to defeat the Huskers on Friday.
That’s an increase from the 86% of fans who predicted Iowa would beat Nebraska when asked before the start of the season.
Given the wide range for this matchup and the different directions the two teams are taking at this point in the year, perhaps some bullishness is to be expected. Nebraska was expected to be in the 8-win range early in the season, much like Vegas had projected the Hawkeyes. Now at 3-8 and 7-4 respectively, the math is a little different.
Still, it’s somewhat surprising that despite a strong month in November, fans are so confident. Despite recent success, the vast majority of Iowa fans polled this week say they’re still not happy with this season.
This despite the fact that Iowa is widely expected to win more games than Vegas predicted (7.5) and is right in line with fan expectations in preseason (about half of the fan base predicted Iowa to finish 8-4) . More importantly, Iowa fans did Not Expect the Hawkeyes to win the West if asked preseason. Now that there is only one regular season game left, almost all Hawekeye fans are saying they will do Expect to end up at the top of the division.
Remarkably, Iowa goes into the week with just one really bad loss. No one in the college football world was surprised that the Hawkeyes fell at No. 3 Michigan or No. 2 Ohio State. Even losing to Illinois isn’t terribly frustrating considering how well the Illini have played this season and jumped into the top-20 along the way.
But we have been trained for the past eight years to expect victories over our neighbors to the east. Similarly, we’ve grown accustomed to going to our Thanksgiving reunions without fear of listening to our Cyclone family members rejoice over a Cy Hawk win. And given their miserable season, that loss really hurts.
It’s also the likely culprit for the outcome of our question on rankings. Just over half of the fanbase believes Iowa should be ranked if they win on Friday, while the other half see those losses to Iowa State and/or Illinois as a deal breaker (well, those and the offense, if we’re being honest are).
Still, it’s not an unreasonable expectation. At 7-4 currently there are five teams between Iowa and a ranking. It’s not unthinkable that some of them will go under this weekend, and even some of the 3-loss teams hanging in the 20-25 range could fall in the final poll of the regular season.
Regardless, Hawkeye fans seem to be running out of optimism when it comes to an Indianapolis return. After being blown out by a Michigan team playing for the College Football Playoff seedings a year ago, Iowa fans seem to have some PTSD contemplating a visit to Lucas Oil Stadium for a rematch with Michigan or Ohio State .
The vast majority of respondents said they will not be traveling to Indianapolis this season under any circumstances.
In theory, though, that’s a simpler proposition than if the Hawkeyes actually win on Friday. Things would get very interesting if it’s the Michigan Wolverines who win Saturday’s game.
While Michigan already beat Iowa at Iowa City this season, the game was much closer than the Columbus matchup (albeit without the six Hawkeye turnovers). And without the appearance of a crime. Granted, the Hawkeyes are far from a juggernaut now, but it’s hard to argue that things haven’t improved slightly in the last month.
It would all be moot if the Hawkeyes couldn’t extend their streak over the Huskers to eight straight wins. Iowa and Nebraska are scheduled to begin at 3:00 p.m. CT on Black Friday. The game will be broadcast on BTN.
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