Here we are smack dab in the middle of Cy-Hawk week and once again the question arises: Who does this game mean more to? The implication being if you care about the Cy-Hawk game more than a conference game, you are naïve and a bad fan.
There is uniqueness to this week that separates itself from the rest. It is the state of Iowa’s most visible sporting event and brings out a passion in these 99 counties that no other game can recreate. When the Hawkeyes lock arms and run out onto the Jack Trice Stadium turf into a roar of 61,500 boos mixed with a few cheers, it’ll be a pretty special atmosphere. I know conference games are supposed to “matter more” but when Kansas comes to Ames, the atmosphere isn’t even close to what it will be on Saturday afternoon.
But that doesn’t stop the intellectual wrangling. Log onto Twitter or Facebook and the extremists have transformed the state into an old-married couple. There is squabbling and bickering and each trying to one-up the other to prove they are superior and the other cares more than they do, which is an interesting topic to fiercely debate.
I’m going to argue with you for days because I don’t care.
The state’s annual sandbox tussle has turned into one of the nation’s most competitive match-ups. For one, there are very few annual inter-conference matchups in Power 5 conferences. To my knowledge there is Iowa State-Iowa, Georgia Tech-Georgia, Clemson-South Carolina and Florida-Florida State. Sure, the Cy-Hawk game will never have the general public appeal of some of those ESPN promoted spectacles, but you won’t find a matchup that has been as consistently competitive as the Cy-Hawk battle in the internet generation.
In the last six match-ups, the teams have split 3-3. In the last 10 matchups, the teams have split 5-5. And in the last 20 match-ups, the teams are dead even at 10 apiece.
In comparison to some other supposed marquee rivalries, Ohio State has won nine of the last 10 against Michigan, Florida has defeated Tennessee 10 straight times, Georgia has won 12 of 14 against Tech and Alabama has won four of six against Auburn.
It has also been the nerve wracking drama that has made the Cy-Hawk series so memorable. The last four games have been decided by six points or less and three of the last four games were determined on the final play.
The UCLA-USC matchup hasn’t had a game within 10 points since 2006 and Clemson-South Carolina’s last one score game was in 2007.
But this week is different no matter the outcome.
This week isn’t about the college football elite breaking down tape to see if Iowa’s two tight-end sets can overpower Iowa State’s revamped three-four front. This isn’t about the Twitter stat slap-fests letting Hawk fans know that Iowa State has just as many wins over Kirk Ferentz as Ohio State does. Or Hawk fans reminding Iowa Staters that Captain Ricki Stanzi has just as many bowl wins as a starter as Iowa State does in their history. Chances are if you are reading this, you fall into the above categories. But this game isn’t about you.
This week is about crazy Bob in Accounting who can pull out his old Iowa State polo shirt from 1997, complete with the angry tornado bird and navy blue sleeves. Bob only cares about football for one week because he gets to make a bet with Henry in Logistics who still can’t pronounce Kirk Fa-rents, but is convinced CJ Ba-thard is the next coming of Chuck Long.
There is a large percentage of Iowans who only really pay attention to one game and this is it. This is their Super Bowl and they enjoy the game in the most elementary fashion. There is something to appreciate about that.
Schedule strength, conference power rankings, season ticket sales and recruiting ability can wait a week.
Sometimes it’s nice to take a step back and see the rivalry for what it is. And it has been a helluva rivalry over the last 20 years.
Go State. Beat the Hawks.