It’s still quite early in the season, but local football fans have already received indicators of how the respective seasons of their favorite teams might play out.
Again, after just two or three games it’s foolhardy to try and accurately predict what the final records might be, but nonetheless with one quarter of the season in the books we know more about our gridiron gangs than we did a month ago.
For the most part, last weekend was a train wreck for a majority of the clubs. With the exception of South Winneshiek, Turkey Valley and the Minnesota Vikings, who each recorded victories, all of our other “faves” left the field with their tails between their legs.
Let’s take a closer look.
After a 12-0 start in 2015 and an appearance in their first Rose Bowl in 25 years, the scuttlebutt out of Iowa City was that the Hawkeyes were going to be a major threat in the Big 10 and nationally. Some devout fans were even talking about Iowa qualifying to play in the four-team tournament for the national championship.
Hopes and expectations remained high after the men in black and gold polished off Miami of Ohio and Iowa State, but then along came North Dakota State – an FCS school.
It wasn’t all that shocking that the Bison – who have won five FCS national titles in a row – upset the mighty Hawkeyes at Kinnick Stadium. It was how they did it. It’s obvious from the post-game comments and the expressions of the players and coaches that Iowa did not expect to lose that game, and the honest truth is it will be extremely hard for the team to regain the confidence it had after starting 2-0.
As stated, it wasn’t the fact that North Dakota State (NDS) came to Iowa’s house of football worship and went back home with one of the greatest victories in team history. It was the way they went about it. Impressive to say the least.
Iowa has become known as a rough, tough, physical football team that likes to bang shoulder pads with anyone, but that didn’t affect the Bison one iota. NDS was a confident, hard-nosed bunch that asked no quarter and gave none, and in the final analysis, the Bison simply hit harder and were more determined than the Hawks.
The Bison offensive and defensive lines got the best of Iowa and easily won the battle in the trenches. Big, strong and agile, they wore down the Iowa squad and managed to pull out the big-time win on a last-second field goal. The silence at Kinnick when that kick sailed through the uprights “spoke” volumes.
To be sure, Iowa can bounce back and have another season to remember, but there’s no question their confidence has been quelled.
Just how bad are the Iowa State Cyclones? Apparently, pretty bad. Under new coach Matt Campbell, the Clones are 0-3 and that includes an opening game loss to FCS opponent Northern Iowa.
Can ISU win a game this year? Good question. To be fair, Campbell is forced to use players recruited by former mentor Paul Rhoads, so patience is the key word for Cyclone fans.
A native of football-crazy Massillon, Ohio, there’s no question Campbell knows the game, but the real question is whether or not he can recruit in the Big 12 when prospects have so many other options to join a proven winner and go to a major bowl game.
Many others have tried, and many others have failed.
After an emotionally charged victory over ISU in week No. 1, the UNI Panthers were thwarted by perennial powerhouse Montana and then lost a stunner to Eastern Washington on that God-awful red field.
What seemed like a season of promise has dramatically changed. Can Coach Mark Farley, a Waukon native, get the Panthers to roar again? Here’s hoping he does, but things have to turn around in a hurry if UNI expects to make the playoffs.
Luther enjoyed a week off after beating rival St. Olaf in an overtime thriller, but can the Norse make it two in a row against visiting Dubuque this Saturday?
Odds are that won’t happen, but if Coach Aaron Hafner hopes to get the Luther program to eventually compete for the Iowa Conference title, he has to start winning a few of these important games. Especially on the Norse’s home turf.
Luther fans have grown weary of 5-5 records every year and if that is going to change, it has to happen soon. As in Saturday.
How good are the Decorah Vikings? Good is probably not the best word to use -- average is more accurate.
As usual, the Vikes have displayed their trademark determination and grit, and are not afraid to play smash-mouth football with anyone, but that doesn’t always translate into victories. Decorah has actually done well to be 2-2 after four games, and could just as easily be 3-1 if they hadn’t lost to Benton Community in an overtime nail-biter.
But I learned a long time ago to never underestimate the Decorah kids, and if anyone can guide the Vikes to a winning record it’s veteran Coach Bill Post.
In the NFL, the Chicago Bears could go 0-16 easily, the Green Bay Packers will certainly make the playoffs unless Aaron Rodgers goes down, and the Minnesota Vikings appear to have it all together despite the season-ending injury to starting quarterback Terry Bridgewater. The move to acquire signal-caller Sam Bradford to replace Bridgewater was brilliant.
With so many games left to be played, it’s anybody’s guess what the final outcomes will be. So I suggest you hold onto your hats because it’s going to be a bumpy ride.