It made sense, the Iowa thing. When Nebraska joined the Big Ten in 2011, setting up an annual Huskers-Hawkeyes matchup on the Friday after Thanksgiving was kind of a housewarming gift.
It said: “Hey, we know you guys have your own traditions way out West, so keep that now-traditional Black Friday date. Here’s a trophy to put up for grabs. Also, play Iowa. It’s very close to you, relatively speaking.”
Iowa didn’t ask for this. It had its own rivals and rivalry trophies, plus complete indifference (at best) to playing on a Friday. Meanwhile, one of Nebraska fans’ favorite pastimes is not acknowledging Iowa football, so it was a weird, arranged marriage from the start, but one that seemed like a safe and sane thing to do.
But it was still an idea that was incubated, not one that bubbled up from the earth, which is how real, pure rivalry is made.
I don’t see much of a problem with losing the Black Friday slot or Iowa as the opponent, but I may be in the slight minority there.
Are you sad to see the Black Friday game against Iowa go? https://t.co/RgcobkMI6X
— Hail Varsity (@HailVarsity) September 12, 2017
The flaw in this poll — I wrote the question, so blame me — is that it’s really asking both those questions but only allowing for one answer. Judging from the comments, it seems like most fans who were saddened by yesterday’s news, may be more disappointed to see the Friday game go than Iowa. If that argument is one of tradition, fine. Nebraska played on Friday for most of my years as a young sports fan so it feels normal to me, too.
If that argument is one of exposure (i.e. it was good to be one of the few games on that day), I would counterargue that almost no program is underexposed in an era of conference networks and social media reach, but particularly not Nebraska. It is interesting, however, that the date may matter more than the opponent.
The Huskers only real experience with rivalry, in my opinion, was Oklahoma. Colorado served as a good rivalry cessation product for some years, but by the time Nebraska got to the Big Ten, all that was really left was the slightly out-of-the-norm date. If the Huskers didn't have a rival, at least they had a rivalry date.
I could see that argument, even if I don't feel the attachment.
The only real twinge of regret here for me is Iowa. If it didn’t seem like a real rivalry when it “started” six years ago, it’s certainly closer now. The jokes and jabs flow freely. Also, the Hawkeyes hammered Nebraska last year in the way that the Huskers used to hammer everyone else. If that game doesn’t raise the stakes on the red side of the Missouri River, nothing will. Things might be just getting good.
Imagine what it could be like by 2020. Things could be really boiling by then. I could see Husker fans packing up Thanksgiving leftovers and heading to the stadium to start tailgating Thursday night, just to be ready to hate on the black-and-gold as early as possible the next day.
And they will all be told to come back tomorrow, Minnesota’s in town.
The Grab Bag
- In honor of Baker Mayfield, a brief history of impulsive celebrations.
- Daniel Santacaterina will get the start for NIU at QB this weekend.
- You're not going to believe this, but Jim Harbaugh is finally going to get some TV time. The Wolverines' 2017 season will be documented for an upcoming Amazon series.
- ICYMI: Nebraska forward Isaac Copeland shared his reaction to being immediately eligible this season.
Today's Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.