I love Hate Week and I hate Iowa as much, if not more, than the next guy. Growing up in Southern Minnesota this rivalry was much stronger for me in my formative years. The hate developed from an early age, long before I realized that I really don't like the Badgers either. But even with some pretty strong hate inside of me, I'm having trouble really hating this week.
Maybe it's cause I've recently adopted a new life philosophy. I have learned from one the younger generations great philosophers that haters are gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate. Without even making a concerted effort I am just shaking it off, that hate that it. Do I hate any less? Nope. Most years I want to beat Iowa because of my hate as much or more as I want to win the football game for football reasons. This year, I really want the win and I want Floyd.
This is a really big game for both teams and it has nothing to do with the rivalry. I'd like to actually discuss the game in this post.
Bowl Game Implications
First of all this game will likely have significant impact on bowl game destinations. The Big Ten has altered how they handle their bowl game bids and have adopted a tiered system. Both Iowa and Minnesota are in position to sneak up into the second tier of bowl games but the loser on Saturday is more likely to be relegated to the third tier. Nothing will be set in stone after Saturday's final, but the loser will certainly have more work to do than the winner.
The first tier is simple...the Rose Bowl is the only bowl worthy of being in the top tier. Seems unlikely that this game will have much impact on the tier one bowl bid unless they run the table including the B1G title game. This year the Rose Bowl is one of the national semi-final games so nobody is heading to Pasadena unless they make the playoffs. But you can probably pencil in Michigan State and Ohio State as BCS bowl bound.
So that moves us to the second tier bowls which are the Citrus, Outback and Holiday Bowls. This is the tier we would love to be included in. Even with a win over Iowa, much work will be left to do with quite a few unknowns still out there. Neither a win nor a loss guarantees anything for these teams but a win certainly helps. And when you factor in what Minnesota's remaining schedule looks like, if you lose this one you have a lot more work to do against some pretty strong opponents.
In my opinion the best outcome for the rest of this season, the most realistic yet impressive accomplishment out there is getting to a tier two bowl. Winning the West would be outstanding. Getting to Indianapolis and upsetting Michigan State or Ohio State would be an epic season we'd remember for a very long time. While those accomplishments are still possible, they are far less likely. Getting to a tier two bowl would be a better post season destination than anything I have seen in my lifetime and would be tangible evidence that this program is taking more than just baby steps in the right direction.
Speaking of that remaining schedule...it only gets tougher from here on out. After the Illinois loss there is additional pressure to win probably two of our remaining games. This is really sort of arbitrary pressure within the fanbase (or maybe more appropriately the fringe-fanbase) that 7 or even 8 wins is necessary as tangible proof that the program is moving forward. Losing the final five games would not be a good way to finish the season. Beating Wisconsin or Nebraska (again) would be a nice measuring stick win but Iowa appears to be more winable than the other three remaining games. This win is important for avoiding a potential 5-game losing streak to end the season.
Floyd and Friends
This year's team has already secured the Little Brown Jug. Adding Floyd to the trophy case in the same year would be a feat not accomplished since 1967! That also the last time the Gophers won a share of the Big Ten title. Getting this win to move us to 7 wins, plus getting Floyd home in the same year as the Jug would be a pretty significant accomplishment regardless of what happens in the final three games.
I want Floyd, I want Floyd bad. How much fun would it be heading into the Wisconsin game with an opportunity to hold all possible rivalry trophies in our possession at the same time.
The rivalry trophies are peripheral but they still mean something. If we are looking for more tangible evidence that the program is moving forward, adding rivalry trophies is one that people often point to.
Big Ten West Still On The Table
I've personally never been too concerned with the road to Indianapolis for the Gophers this year. The road is treacherous and apparently bumpy (see Illinois debacle). But the winner of Saturday's game is still right there with Nebraska and doesn't need help the rest of the way to get back on top.
Listen, I just want to win this damn game. Give me another W. Iowa is playing really well lately, especially offensively. This is going to be the toughest test we have had since TCU with some more challenging opponents still to come. I want to see a hard fought win in the trenches. This would be a very nice win and I want it. The hate is strong, this year the desire for a win is stronger.