Monday, October 17, 2005

Big 12 North Weird Again, But [Says Mac] Not Weird Enough For the Champion to Finish With a .500 Record--And Look Who's Coming to Iowa City!

And, just think, people—well, some people anyway--laughed at what was described as a “weird” Big 12 North football division last season.

I've got news for you, football fans.

Things could be just as weird this year.


“I’d be surprised if the winner of the North has a .500 conference record this year,” Iowa State coach Dan McCarney said today.

Despite what others might think, McCarney said the North is improved over a year ago.

McCarney’s Cyclones are a disappointing 0-3 so far. Joining them with that record is Kansas. At 1-2 in the division is Kansas State. Nebraska, Colorado and Missouri are 2-1 in the North.

No team finished higher than .500 in the North in 2004. Colorado and Iowa State were 4-4, but the Buffaloes represented the North in the Big 12 playoff because they defeated Iowa State, 19-14, during the regular season.


Iowa State has too often killed itself with what McCarney called “catastrophic mistakes” – like committing seven turnovers in the red zone.

“My heart aches for these kids,” McCarney said.


Getting back to who might be laughing at the Big 12 North……

It certainly shouldn’t be anyone in Iowa City.

After all, Iowa State thrashed Iowa, 23-3, Sept. 10.

The Cyclone haven’t played that well since, and Iowa suddenly is looking like a Big Ten title contender.

The Hawkeyes have gotten there by beating three of the Big Ten’s worst teams – Illinois, Purdue and Indiana.

Look for Iowa to move its overall record to 6-2 and its conference record to 4-1 by beating Michigan on Saturday in Iowa City. The 11 a.m. game will be televised regionally by ABC.

Three-point favorite Iowa never loses at Kinnick Stadium, and Michigan coach Lloyd Carr is…..well, Lloyd Carr.

The Wolverines [4-3 overall and 2-2 in the Big Ten] are coming off a 27-25 upset victory over Penn State. The clipping from the Michigan Daily at the upper right is from earlier in the season when Lloyd Carr was.....well, being Lloyd Carr then, too.


Of the Iowa game, Carr said today:

"We're looking forward to playing an excellent Iowa team, a team that has really established some momentum here in the Big Ten Conference race, and a team that when you look at [Abdul] Hodge and [Chad] Greenway, two of the finest linebackers in the country, No. 1 in the Big Ten in red zone offense and red zone defense, which certainly presents a challenge for us.

"And, offensively, I think Drew Tate is another of the great quarterbacks we have got in this conference this year, and [Albert] Young has done a great job in the running game. And, of course, this [Clinton] Solomon, 21 yards a catch is extremely impressive. We need to prepare and get ready to go into a very tough arena in terms of communication, in terms of the enthusiasm their crowd brings to their team."

About the Michigan-Iowa rivalry over the past few years and the physical nature of this rivalry, Carr said, "I think Iowa.....Norm Parker, their defensive coordinator.....and I coached together years ago at Illinois. He was a coordinator for George Perles at Michigan State and before he was a coordinator, he was a defensive line coach.

"So what Iowa really does is they move their tackles down into real tight positions on our tackles and make it very difficult to run inside. And then, of course, they're going to make you run the football east and west, and they're a very difficult team to run the football on because of the way they play. And to play that way, you have to be physical. And they have established I think a toughness there and a pride in defense.

"About trying to put together back-to-back victories for the first time this season, Carr said, "The only thing I am interested in is what our team thinks. And the important thing is that they understand we have got an excellent team in front of us and what we're trying to focus on here every week is the next opponent. You can't worry about all the things that you don't have any control over. Which you can have control over is how you approach today.

"You get some choices. You can come prepared to work and with an attitude that I am going to get better and that's certainly our No. 1 goal. We need to try to get better, and be a better football team."


Iowa State was 2-4 overall and 0-3 in the Big 12 at this stage last season.

“We’d been blown out in a couple of games last season [by Oklahoma State and Texas A&M],” McCarney said, adding that those defeats were “real ugly.”

Two of the Cyclones’ conference losses this season have been in overtime to North opponents Nebraska and Missouri. The other was an embarrassing 23-13 loss to Baylor of the South.

Saturday’s 1 p.m. homecoming foe is Oklahoma State [0-3 and 3-3].

Unless the bottom has fallen out of the Cyclones’ season, look for them to win.

Oklahoma State is awful under first-year coach Mike Gundy [pictured at the upper left].


Southern California and Texas were the top two teams in the first Bowl Championship Series standings of the season today, just as they have been in the polls since the preseason.

First-place USC is No. 1 in both the coaches' poll and the Harris Interactive poll, and the Trojans graded out best in the six computer rankings. USC has a BCS grade of .9923, giving it a solid cushion over the second-place Longhorns (.9591).

The top two teams in the final BCS standings will play in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 4 for a national title.

Virginia Tech (.9067), Georgia (.8933) and Alabama (.8220) followed USC and Texas in the standings.


A man identified as Theodore [not his real name] from the Twin Cities [his real home towns--both of them] sent me this e-mail:

"About Glen Mason, loosely referred to as the Gophers' football coach. How could it be that Mason doesn't know when to take a safety and then gets a punt blocked -- and recovered in the end zone -- for a devastating loss at home? I have to call it bad coaching. I've seen Iowa do this several times under Ferentz.....

"The Concordia Moorhead Cobbers lead, 10-0, at halftime over St. John's in a battle of unbeatens in Moorhead. They punt with 25 seconds left leading, 16-14, and St. John's gets the ball 74 yards from the end zone. The Johnnies score on a pass play to win the game.

"By the way, check out these MIAC 'nicknames.' Can you match them: Oles, Royals, Cobbers, Johnnies, Knights, Tommies, Auggies, Pipers, Gusties, and Scots. Not much creativity.

"Northwestern -- which may be for real -- goes and wins at West Lafayette. They only lost to Penn State by five points earlier."


[RON MALY'S COMMENTS: I hope Mason wasn't invited on that recent cruise with another team from the Twin Cities -- the Vikings. That could have messed up his thinking. When Mason was an Iowa State assistant coach, I recall him as a clean-cut staff member who knew when to call a safety and when not to call a safety. What's happened to him since, I don't know. Mason's coaching hasn't been the greatest at Minnesota. His biggest problem is not knowing Floyd of Rosedale from Floyd of Manwiller. My friend Floyd of Rosedale is figuring on staying in Iowa City under Kirk Ferentz's care for another winter. The Hawkeyes plan to seal the deal when the Gophers play at Iowa City on Nov. 19. By the way, Joe Tiller is history at Purdue. Thanks for writing, Theodore, and keep those Golden Bears winning!]


Vol. 4, No. 395
Oct. 17, 2005