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September 27, 2011

Tuesdays with Torbee

Creampuffs? I'll have mine with extra filling, thanks

I'll be the first to admit that for the second season in row, the fourth week of the Big 10 season was far from a murderer's row of nasty opponents.

Sure, resident bottom feeders Indiana and Minnesota managed to lose to an anemic Sun Belt team and an under-funded FCS challenger respectively. But for the most part, it was payday Saturday, with a lineup of small school patsies generously taking their checks and butt kickings and returning to relative obscurity without the home teams breaking much of a sweat.

And just like last season, much of the Big 10 media intelligentsia called it cowardice and pushed for the conference to emulate its peers in the Pac 12, SEC and Big 12 and begin scheduling conference games as early as Week Two.

As an avid viewer of college football on television, I love those games.

But as an Iowa fan, I say perish the thought. And you should too.

First of all, there is a preponderance of evidence that Coach Kirk Ferentz views the non-conference portion of the schedule as equivalent to an NFL pre-season. He's on record saying the goal each year is to win a Big 10 championship. This helps me sleep at night after head-scratching losses to mediocre Iowa State squads.

Second, most good Iowa teams grow and improve as the season progresses. The most memorable Hawkeye squads play their best football in November, even if odd stumbles (does a 44-7 debacle in the Arizona desert in a Big 10 co-championship winning season ring any bells?) are common in September.

Now, how would you like that 44-7 to come at the hands of, say, Ohio State a week after Labor Day?

Yeah, me either.

But the real reason for my reluctance is craven and selfish. The thing is, I enjoy the false sense of security beating up on little guys gives me as a fan. Cheering for a team like Iowa - which typically has peaks and valleys and mixes a few stinker seasons in with its championship runs - means a day of reckoning lurks in many seasons.

It's that game when it hits you in the gut that the Hawkeyes just aren't going to contend that year. My feeling is, why not delay that sad realization as long as possible?

The college football season is a brief and wonderful ride. It starts in September and wraps up on New Years Day. In between, seven long months stretch interminably. I don't want reality to crush those joyous first few weeks of the season when anything seems possible.

Take a look at our old friend and spastic sideline psychotic Mike Stoops. His Arizona Wildcats have already played two conference games against Stanford and Oregon. Hello 0-2 and soon to be unemployed.

Go ahead and trot out the old clichés to mock me: to be the best, you have to beat the best, etc. That's a true statement - but does it have to happen before the leaves change color? Can't we enjoy the sweet decadence of our creampuffs before the bitter pill of defeat is tasted?

Think about this scenario: a re-building Iowa team faces off at home in Week Two against a fired up Northwestern Wildcat team. The offensive line hasn't gelled, the Hawkeyes have their annual ambulance parade of banged up running backs, and smug, smirky Pat Fitzgerald walks off the Kinnick turf with another victory. I don't know about you, but that pretty much ruins my autumn before it's even started.

So I beseech you, Big 10 powers-that-be. Go ahead and add a Big 12 vagabond to our historic conference. I suppose, if you must, grab a few more teams and become a "super-conference". Let TCU (blech) play in the Rose Bowl.

But can we please hold on to our creampuffs a little bit longer?


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