Ball’s in Iowa’s Court to Make a Rivalry
Sports rivalries can't be manufactured merely through scheduling, talk, or marketing. Bill McCartney nearly created one between Nebraska and Colorado, but it didn't really mean anything until the Buffaloes went 3-2-1 over a six year stretch against the Huskers. Nine straight wins by NU cooled things considerably, even though many of the games were close and exciting. In order for an opponent to really get under your skin, they have to do some damage to your win-loss record. Nebraska's held up their end of the bargain by beating Iowa last year in Lincoln. Can the Hawkeyes return the favor in Iowa City?
While it didn't become much of a rivalry, Kansas State did manage to get some blood boiling in the Husker Nation with a win in 1998, followed by another in 2000, and a streak from 2002-2004. Things mellowed as the Huskers rattled off six wins (only one game close) in the years that followed. But if a KSU-NU "rivalry" ever had any life, it started with a win in Manhattan by KSU. That's where things would probably need to start for Iowa. The environment in Iowa City does usually provide some advantage for the team, though an early kickoff doesn't help matters.
Outside of playing in Iowa City, there's not much to like about the Hawkeyes in this matchup. Those that seek to rank the Big Ten unit by unit give Nebraska the edge on both the offensive and defensive lines and at wide receiver and running back. Even those that like quarterback James Vanderberg over Taylor Martinez have to appreciate that Jimmy V. is exactly the kind of signal caller that Bo Pelini defenses feast upon. Some have given Kirk Ferentz the edge as a head coach. That seems to have more to do with past acheivements than recent ones.
Yes Ferentz has taken the Hawkeyes from a laughingstock to a pair of Orange Bowls in his time in Iowa City. Over the last two seasons though, he's been a .500 coach in Big Ten play with a pair Insight Bowl appearances to show for it. Last year he lost to both Iowa State and Minnesota but did manage wins over Michigan, Pittsburgh, and Northwestern.
You have to give Iowa a puncher's chance to beat Nebraska. If they can't get the victory though, then any talk of a "rivalry" will have to be postponed until the Hawkeyes show they can inflict some pain on the Big Red.