Football Withdrawel, No National Titles For ISU/UNI, Panther Hoops For Real

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(By Zach Borg)

This was the first Saturday since August that we didn’t have a team in Iowa playing college football.  Very strange and weird.  I already miss the sidelines at Kinnick, Jack Trice and yes, even the UNI Dome.  Though I don’t miss having to smell the exposed sewer line on the Dome field.

Spoke with departing Cyclone offensive coordinator Tom Herman today.  The decision to leave for Ohio State really was pretty simple.  Professionally it’s a chance to work with perhaps the best offensive mind in college football, Urban Meyer.  Personally it’s a hefty pay raise moving from OC at ISU to OSU.  This was a no-brainer. 

Herman wanted to stay for the Pinstripe Bowl and will.  Players and the rest of the coaches were clear they wanted him for the final game.  Helps continuity, and sometimes we see teams play a bit harder for an outgoing coach.

Courtesy Iowa State Daily

Volleyball is not (and never will be) the top college sport in Iowa, but the Cyclones came damn close to having the best team in the country.  ISU lost in five sets to Florida State in the Elite 8 in Minneapolis.  Congrats to them on a fine season first off (their second Elite 8 trip in four years).  Still, this one stings.  They’d beaten the Gophers on their home floor last night, had more of a homecourt advantage in the Cities, and with top seed Texas (whom they’d lost to twice this season) ousted earlier in the day, the bracket couldn’t have been set up better for them to win a national championship.

Something must be in the water at Iowa State when these coaches speak in postgame.  Christy Johnson-Lynch isn’t quite Paul Rhoads, but she did have a pretty good and emotional speech after the Cyclones defeated Minnesota (it starts at about 1:40):   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vlz1dHCzVT4&feature=channel_video_title

The Northern Iowa football team looked like a national title contender in FCS for much of the year.  But they never seemed to recover from their big 27-19 loss in late October at North Dakota State.  Had they won there the Panthers would have won the Valley outright and had either the one or two seed in the playoffs.  Instead they never really were the same, even in victory.  Going into the postseason, and even into the game, UNI had a better regular season resume than Montana, and Mark Farley still seemed upset about it in postgame last night.  But when you lose by 38 it’s more than muted.

Courtesy Cedar Rapids Gazette

The Panthers have had one of the most consistent programs in FCS over the last 21 years, but you have to wonder if this program will ever get over the hump and win a national title.  Ever since their 2005 loss in the national title game to Appalachian State it seems like the Panthers tease everyone by playing their best ball in midseason, only to run out of gas as the playoffs arrive.  The last three years were especially brutal.  The 2009 team that nearly won at Iowa lost three of their final five and missed the playoffs.  The 2010 team sputtered at the end and was stunned by Lehigh at home in the first round.  UNI may struggle to even get back to the playoffs next year with early season road games at Wisconsin and Iowa.  The (likely) losses won’t hurt so much as the fact that they could come away from that death march beaten up and injured before they even start league play.

Courtesy CR Gazette

The good news at UNI is that the Panther men’s basketball team is for real.  In a cat fight against 8-1 UW-Milwaukee (also nicknamed the Panthers) UNI won soundly 67-51.  Northern Iowa is now 9-1 and their resume is impressive.  They’ve beaten power conference teams (Providence, Iowa and Iowa State), solid fellow mid-majors (Milwaukee, Colorado State, Old Dominion), and their only loss is to a perennial tournament contender St. Marys.  The Valley will be tough, but unless the Panthers do a total faceplant in league play, I think this is a team that can get an at-large bid even if they don’t go all the way in Arch Madness.

Robert Griffin III was the deserving Heisman Trophy winner, don’t get me wrong.  I just wish there had been more suspense.  Announcers were practically consoling Andrew Luck for finishing runner-up 20 minutes before the actual announcement.

NL MVP Ryan Braun has tested positive for use of performance enhancing drugs.  Braun called it “BS” and is claiming there was no intentional use.  I’ll wait to see how it plays out before passing judgment on him.  He doesn’t have a freakish build or anything of that nature that would lead you to believe he’s on PEDs.  However, it would be naive to think athletes aren’t doing them.  Just because they have more tests doesn’t mean there are less ways to mask use.  As long as games are played someone will always look for that “extra edge”, and that will include cheating too.

Army and Navy never seem to be any good on the field.  Does anyone care?  It’s one of the greatest rivalries in sports, and these are some of the greatest people in the world.  

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