Based on the first two weeks of the season, I resolve to stop bitching and moaning about Iowa State's red-on-red look with its uniforms.
Seriously, ISU goes with a slick, red-on-white look in its new duds against Northern Iowa and proceeds to drop a dud on a near-sellout crowd at Jack Trice Stadium last week. This week against Ohio, ISU goes old school retro with the "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" motif and routs the Bobcats.
Clearly the jury has spoken.
(Although, as an aside, I must add that this year's red-on-red – with a little gold and white mixed in – is not nearly as hard on the eyes as its predecessor.)
I remember when I first told Eric Heft of the Cyclone Radio Network last summer that his beloved ‘Clones were getting new threads for 2003.
"Jeez, we went to three straight bowl games with the old ones so why change now," he asked me.
I thought he was being overly superstitious and sentimental, but it turns out he was actually clairvoyant.
The Cyclones elected to go back to Tiger Woods' favorite color on Saturday, and the result was the kind of football we're used to seeing ISU play at home in recent years. They ran the ball effectively, got big plays from the quarterback position, and played with a passion that was missing against the more fired up Panthers.
Now, if they could just play a little more pass defense I think we'd all be happy, but beggars can't be choosers I suppose.
Next up is Iowa, and the state's biggest annual sporting event.
The defending Big Ten champs are good overall and maybe great on defense. It's tough to truly gauge how dominant they are on that side of the ball based on the fact one opponent started a white tailback and the other played more white guys than a rec league flag football team.
Nonetheless, I've seen their guys up close and personal. And the Hawkeyes have some very, very bad men. However, not a one of those guys has even sniffed a Cy-Hawk Trophy. Heck, the classy Kirk Ferentz is the reigning National Coach of the Year, and he still hasn't even won a state championship.
This has got to be one of the quirkiest rivalries in contemporary college football. Iowa State has won five straight, but was only favored to win, according to the oddsmakers, by the slimmest of margins twice. The Hawkeyes have put more guys in the NFL and played in a Bowl Championship Series game. Last year they had seven guys earn some sort of individual award or All-American status.
However, something happens to the Cyclones when it's Iowa week on the schedule. They start believing they're All-Americans too. Guys like Tim Tebrink, who can't find a home on the roster right now, can make momentum-swinging plays against a quarterback that finished a close second in the Heisman Trophy balloting.
When it's against Iowa, the Cyclones can actually run the ball. When it's against Iowa, the Cyclones can actually convert pressure field goals. When it's against Iowa, the Cyclones actually hold the mental and emotional edge.
Ferentz and his award-winning coaching staff doesn't need any advice from me, but they might want to consider eschewing their familiar black-and-gold Saturday morning for Oklahoma maroon because whatever Kryptonite they're using only fuels ISU further.
They've tried everything in Iowa City to win this game. They've remained silent. They've run smack. None of it matters. Something – in their eyes – always seems to go wrong. A turnover here, a big play there, an injury here.
Of course, they forget to recognize that someone made Grant Steen fumble that interception return two years ago. Someone blew up the offensive line to tackle Aaron Greving for a safety. Someone called that reverse to J.J. Moses on the first play from scrimmage. Someone converted three straight third-and-longs from the shadow of their goal line inside a hostile Kinnick Stadium.
And all of those someones happened to be wearing cardinal-and-gold at the time. It's hard to accept if you're a resident of the Hawkeye Nation, but ISU has just wanted this game more.
That's not to say Iowa doesn't care, because I'll bet you one of Grant Steen's middle fingers that's not the case. They just don't care as much.
In any given year, there are 60-70 Iowans on Dan McCarney's roster. Recruiting keeps improving at ISU, but by and large there are still a lot of guys on this roster who were overlooked by the "big boys" and the University of Iowa when it came time to pass out scholarships. Those guys remember that, as does their coach, who just so happens to be a former Hawkeye assistant coach, university alum, and native of Iowa City.
For the last five years, the Cyclones have treated this game as a singular event; almost as if it's a season unto itself. Ending that 15-year drought against Iowa back in 1998 was the first tangible sign of progress for this program, and continuing the current winning-streak is the first tangible sign of hope for the current season.
Plus, it's just great to silence those incessantly arrogant Hawkeye fans that refuse to give ISU any respect. I have some good friends involved with Iowa athletics, but I'll confess that the behavior of a segment of their fans makes it easy to root against them come Saturday.
Let's face it, there's nothing more satisfying than listening or watching SoundOff after another Cyclone triumph over Iowa, is there? The collective gnashing of teeth that goes on within the Hawkeye Nation is a better excuse for rubber-necking than a 50-car pileup on I-80.
Every time the Iowa State football program looks at its Eastern Iowa counterparts it seems them as the school bully that used to steal their lunch money. After working out and lifting some weights, once unheralded guys like Jordan Carstens, Lane Danielsen, Jack Whitver, and Joe Woodley are ready for a little payback.
And you know what they say about paybacks. After the last five (six?) years, the Hawkeyes know it…intimately.
If you're looking for a prediction, check back on Friday.
Radio Coverage Advisory
Those of you that live in Central Iowa and listen to my radio show on 1460-KXNO should mark a couple of days on your calendar this week.
On Wednesday, we'll join Keith Murphy and the TV-13 WHO crew for a live broadcast up at Jack Trice Stadium from their "RV-TV" set. If you're in the neighborhood, make sure you stop by.
Then on Thursday, please join us for what should be a fun show out at Off Campus Apparel & Novelties located at 4090 Merle Hay Road. We'll be joined by Reggie Roby & Keith Sims, and play a special Cy-Hawk version of "Family Feud" as well for a chance to win tickets to The Big Game. See you there.
This week's top 25
If I had a vote in the Associated Press Top 25 college football poll, this would've been my ballot:
1. USC (2-0)
This week—beat BYU, 35-18
Next week—Hawaii (1-0)
2. Texas (1-0)
Next week—Arkansas (1-0)
3. Michigan (2-0)
This week—beat Houston, 50-3
Next week—#13 Notre Dame (1-0)
4. Oklahoma (2-0)
This week—beat Alabama, 20-13
Next week—Fresno State (1-1)
5. Ohio State (2-0)
This week—beat San Diego State, 16-13
Next week—#21 N.C. State (1-1)
6. LSU (2-0)
This week—beat Arizona, 59-13
Next week—Western Illinois (2-0)
7. Pittsburgh (1-0)
This week—beat Kent State, 43-3
Next week—Ball State (1-1)
8. Miami, Fla. (2-0)
This week—beat Florida, 38-33
Next week—East Carolina (0-2)
9. Kansas State (3-0)
This week—beat McNeese State, 55-14
Next week—Massachusetts (1-0)
10. Florida State (2-0)
This week—beat Maryland, 35-10
Next week—Georgia Tech (1-1)
11. Georgia (2-0)
This week—beat Middle Tennessee State, 29-10
Next week—#25 South Carolina (2-0)
12. Virginia Tech (2-0)
This week—beat James Madison, 43-0
13. Notre Dame (1-0)
This week—beat Washington State, 29-26 (OT)
Next week—at #3 Michigan (2-0)
14. Tennessee (2-0)
This week—beat Marshall, 34-24
15. Nebraska (2-0)
This week—beat Utah State, 31-7
Next week—Penn State (1-1)
16. Colorado (2-0)
This week—beat UCLA, 16-14
Next week—Washington State (1-1)
17. Wake Forest (2-0)
This week—beat N.C. State, 38-24
Next week—Purdue (0-1)
18. Florida (1-1)
This week—lost to Miami (Fla.), 38-33
Next week—Florida A&M (1-0)
19. Arizona State (1-0)
This week—beat Northern Arizona, 34-14
Next week—Utah State (0-2)
20. Wisconsin (2-0)
This week—beat Akron, 48-31
Next week—UNLV (1-1)
21. Minnesota (2-0)
This week—beat Troy State, 48-7
Next week—at Ohio (1-1)
22. Iowa (2-0)
This week—beat Buffalo, 56-7
Next week—at Iowa State (2-0)
23. N.C. State (1-1)
This week—lost to Wake Forest, 38-24
Next week—at #5 Ohio State (2-0)
24. TCU (2-0)
This week—beat Navy, 17-3
25. South Carolina (2-0)
This week—beat #14 Virginia, 31-7
Next week—at #11 Georgia (2-0)
(Steve Deace can be heard on the radio in Central Iowa each Monday-Friday from 4-7 p.m. on 1460-KXNO, the flagship of the Cyclone Radio Network)