Norman has the hate. Boulder has the nostalgia. Madison has the crown. But to drive from Omaha to Lucas Oil Stadium, you’ve got to go through Iowa City first.
“I mean, it’s natural,” former Nebraska defensive coordinator and Blackshirts icon Charlie McBride told Land of 10 recently. “Iowa, I think, is respectful. It’s been a hell of a rivalry.
“But it’s all about respect, because the people are the same people. They all have the same business, they’re all farm people, so there’s a lot of it that’s pretty common.”
Speak softly and carry a big stick. Same code. Same pride. Same reserve. Same ethos. Same muddy Missouri River, bubbling down the seam.
“I think Iowa-Nebraska is a cool rivalry that’s never really happened,” former Cornhuskers tackle Fred Pollack offered.
“It has the potential. Just being next-door neighbors for a lot of people, I think it would be fun. Not from any tradition in the past. Just because they’re our neighbors, with Omaha, and [that] most of the population is on the [eastern] border, that’s where a lot of Iowa and Nebraska fans interact. I think it just makes sense.”
Mike Riley and Shawn Eichorst didn’t get it. Bill Moos does. Scott Frost does, too, based on this take from over the weekend at HuskerOnline.com:
“I grew up like you did watching Nebraska play Oklahoma on Black Friday,” Frost told HuskerOnline. “It’s a great tradition here to play on that day. I know Iowa is all for it. I know Bill Moos and I are all for it. Hopefully, we can land in a place where we are playing the same opponent every year on that Friday, and I think that’s what Nebraska fans are used to.”
Oklahoma brings back all the feelings, but the map is different now. Wisconsin would be more fulfilling, given the degree to which the Badgers smothered The Bob Devaney Principles onto a giant bratwurst and feasted for decades.
But Iowa on Black Friday just makes sense. Too much sense. Turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, Cornhuskers and Hawkeyes.
All it needs is time.
OK, time and two good teams — both sides, not just one — playing for meaningful stakes. A regional ripple needs to feel like a national one.
“Iowa’s always kind of wanted a piece of Nebraska, even when we weren’t in the Big Ten,” ex-Nebraska linebacker Jay Foreman said of the rivalry, which has been played the day after Thanksgiving since 2011 but is on a Black Friday sabbatical in 2020 and 2021.
“They’ve been kicking our butts and rubbing our faces in it. And they’ve been probably the most steady program. It should probably be like that. I would like us to play Iowa … that’s the best opportunity.”
The best party. The best showcase. The best release. For generations, they stood, back to back, arms folded, each dismissive of the other. Iowa fans chided the Huskers for getting fat on a bad, basketball-centric Big Eight. Nebraska fans responded by pointing to the trophy case and to a four-game series from 1979 to 1982, Tom Osborne vs. Hayden Fry, that saw the Big Red go 3-1 and outscore the Hawkeyes 130-38.
“We were kind of the big kids on the block,” Pollack said. “And Colorado, they had some years when they were good, but we never really considered that a rival like Oklahoma [was]. Barry Switzer was hated [here] and loved there and people down there probably felt the same about Tom Osborne, I presume. We had a lot of good times with that game.
“That’s part of the reason Iowa, going forward, would make sense with something like that. It sort of happened naturally out of big kids on the block bumping heads.”
And swapping bruises. Iowa’s riding a three-game winning streak in the series for the first time since 1942-44; over the last three meetings in the series the Hawkeyes have outscored Nebraska 124-44.
Because what goes around …
“In the Big Ten, that would be it,” McBride continued. “Wisconsin and Minnesota, they still are [intense] — I coached seven years [with the Badgers], and boy, that was a war. But the coaches never got too much into that because of the coaching changes up there.
“I don’t know if anybody else in the Big Ten would be as good a rivalry as Iowa would be, because they’re next-door neighbors. So that’s what I think, and I think the ADs are working [to get it back].”