Monday, October 31, 2011

College Football Week 10

There is only one game that has the college football world buzzing this week and that is the SEC battle among Alabama and LSU. It should be one of the better games of the year and will most likely send the winner to the National Championship game. However I was asked this weekend if the two should play again if that is in the BCS Championship Game. I'll stick to my original thoughts on this and that the winner of the Conference is the automatic consideration for the Title game. And this is a game that should live up to the hype, but I can't see Nick Saban being on the losing end of this game.

The Big Ten is in disarray, but it shouldn't be surprising. Most everyone knew with the addition of Nebraska that the likelihood of the conference to qualify for the BCS Title Game. Wisconsin took a serious step back with back-to-back losses in two straight weeks. And while many fans had already penciled in another team to the BCS bowls, but those in the Legends Division to win out, costing the Hawkeyes a win or two.

North Dakota State and Northern Iowa played a game that lived up to the hype. The teams were rated #3 and #2 respectively in Football's Championship Subdivision. And except for one costly UNI turnover the teams were about as even as possible. Here's hoping to another meeting in the playoffs.

Night Out on the Town

Downtown Iowa City has its share of bars for students to attend. It is no different than many other college campuses where students have a place to hang out after class or on a Saturday night. However there are few that are strictly bars, and not serve food. Joe's Place is one of those places, unless bags of chips or nuts is considered the type of food that constitute as a meal to be served.

Joe's Place is in the shadow of the Old Capitol, down the street from the iconic landmark and it sits amid many of the campus educational buildings. It has been around for many years, and until recently maintained its original "hole in the wall" feel. But in the last few years it has expanded beyond the original walls.

One reason I like Joe's is for the pinball. While in college it had a number of pinball machines and it gave us a great study break. The games didn't change much, but the ones they had were fun and we looked forward to the multi-ball experience - or as we'd call it, pinball orgasm.

Joe's isn't anything fancy. It isn't centered around voluptuous girls attracting patrons to buy beers from them. And the beer menu doesn't include many different micro brews. Joe's is a place where you order a beer and you enjoy the company of friends or those you may meet for the first time.

Minneapolis Weekend

 For the second straight year the Iowa Football team travelled to Minneapolis for their rivalry with the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Due to divisional play and a revamped schedule, the battle for Floyd of Rosedale, which has been played in late November since 1983 is now being played in October.  It allows for better, more "fall-like" weather. And on this last Saturday before Halloween the skies couldn't be any bluer and the temps couldn't be more seasonal. And while part of the nation was digging out from an unseasonal winter storm, it was perfect football weather at TCF Bank Stadium.
TCF Bank Stadium, the conference newest, is one of few that run east to west. Most in the country are north-south with the press box on the side of the setting sun. But the open end of the Gopher's stadium is open to the downtown Minneapolis skyline, west of the Minnesota campus.
And with all Hawkeye games, Gary Dolphin (right) and Ed Podolak call the game on Learfield's Hawkeye Radio Network.
 A familiar face and voice to those in the Eastern side of the state of Iowa, Mike Grimm now calls the action for the Gopher Radio Network. Grimm spent much time at WMT in Cedar Rapids calling high school sports before getting the chance to be the voice of Iowa Women's Basketball along with Karen Schulte. Following his stint there he moved to St. Louis and did work with the St. Louis Cardinals on KMOX. This is his first year calling Gopher football, adding to his workload as voice of Golden Gopher Men's Basketball.
 A year ago the Hawkeyes were unsuccessful in their first game at TCF Bank Stadium. And the results weren't much different this year.
But the last time the Hawkeyes took to the Metrodome field, the outcome was memorable. It was also the final home game for the Gophers inside. Many Hawkeye fans referred to the inflatable structure as "Kinnick North" as the black and gold clad fans bought up as many tickets as were available. There were two memorable moments in the dome. The first was in 2002 when the Hawkeyes capped a perfect Big Ten season with a victory, and the fans taking down the goal posts. Then the final game inside was 2008 and the Hawkeyes shut out the Gophers 55-0.
Downtown Minneapolis was the overnight stop for the Iowa Football team. And a couple of blocks away was Nicollet Mall and the statue of Mary Tyler Moore depicting her famous hat toss in the open of her show, staged in Minneapolis.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Floyd Remains in Minnesota

For the second straight year Floyd of Rosedale, the travelling trophy between Iowa and Minnesota will belong to the Gophers as the Hawkeyes  lose their third game of the season, 22-21.

The Hawkeyes look for their sixth win to make them bowl eligible against Michigan this Saturday. The game with the Wolverines will be on ESPN with an 11am start time.

Monday, October 24, 2011

College Football Week 9

After seeing so much bad with UCLA football last week, it was time we remembered the good. The Bruins may have hit their low point in the Rick Neuheisel regime. On national television last Thursday, UCLA traveled to Tucson, Arizona to take on a Wildcat team that was trying to salvage anything out of a dismal year. Arizona was playing their first game after the firing of head coach Mike Stoops in front of a crowd a far cry from the packed house we witnessed just over a year ago. Not only did the Bruins lose, but a fight was started in the middle of the second half. Benches cleared, and it was a dark spot on a bad year for UCLA. The Bruins are on the brink of being another program that hasn't been relevant for many years. And if they want to re-capture the Los Angeles fan base, now is the time as USC is suffering through NCAA penalties.

I'm not sure what the executives at ABC were thinking when they placed the Illinois - Penn State game at 2:30, keeping the match-up of #11Michigan State and #14 Nebraska for the earlier ESPN time slot. Either game is good, but when two teams in the top 15 play each other, one would think it would be earmarked for the more glamorous 2:30 spot.

Its tough, but times have changed and the teams who you once cheered against, now may be teams you cheer hardest for. As a member of the Legends division, we now must cheer for Leaders Division teams when playing those of us in the Legends. The win for Michigan State Saturday night looms big moving into November.

Boise State will most likely be passed over for the BCS National Championship, but when is the time coming that they will be part of the battle for #1? They've gone on the road to play top 20 teams, and won. But their allegiance to a conference with little national attention will continue to hurt them, and will quite possibly be used as an excuse if they are passed over. With more preparation time for a bowl game than most other regular season games, Boise State would provide a great show.

Night Out on the Town

Approaching the half way mark for some teams in Big Ten Conference play, our attention begins to shift towards the home of the first football championship game in Indianapolis. The Capitol of the Hoosier State has many options for all types. The downtown area has many of the chain restaurants and bars, as well as some of the more well-known places, locally run, but have been in business for a number of years.

Indianapolis has been the home of the Big Ten Men's and Women's Basketball Championships so the area isn't new to someone who follows their favorite team for many years. About half way between Lucas Oil Stadium and Conseco Fieldhouse is a small Irish Pub, Claddagh Irish Pub.

Although it is a chain of some sort, this is the only one I know I've been too. After looking at the web site I may have been to the one in Columbus, but not completely sure. The food is good and has the Irish classics on the menu. And the variety of beer is good, although I'm not into the heavy English type.

This is a good place to hang out with friends hours leading up to the Big Ten Championship game. And definitely a good place to meet friends after the win.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Homecoming Win for the Hawkeyes

Saturday was Homecoming in Iowa City, but it will be remembered as the day Marvin McNutt broke the record for career TD catches as the Hawkeyes downed Indiana 45-24.

Iowa scored on each of its possessions in the first half and finally stopped the Hoosier offense after Indiana scored on their first two possessions.

It was the second straight conference victory for Iowa as they head into the battle for Floyd of Rosedale next week. The Hawkeyes make a rare back-to-back return trip to TCF Bank Stadium where they look to reclaim the prized bronze hog, lost in the last regular season game of 2010.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Homecoming at Iowa

Being employed with the football team since being a student at Iowa I wanted to have the feel of being a normal student on campus. Working in athletics as a student I found myself consumed with Iowa Football every day in the fall. But in 1991 I wanted to have that "college" experience. I decided to volunteer to be the Parade Coordinator.

As a member of the Homecoming Council I found myself joining an organization that was full of individuals who knew each other from the Greek system on campus. There were only two...maybe three that didn't fit that description. I know another was the Homecoming PR person.

Meeting of the Homecoming Council typically came at a time when I had practice responsibilities with the football team. The Head of the Homecoming Council was a friend, and understood the hours I had to put in. She would keep me informed, but I was lacking that experience I was looking for.

I did spend time in the Homecoming Office, which provided a great opportunity to know my fellow classmates better. And I would do things college students would do on an Iowa City Friday night with some of members of the committee. We'd have good times, but there was still that "Greek" wall between us. I couldn't relate to them, now them with I and my athletic background.

But one member on the council and I shared a similar bond - neither of us were "Greek" members. We didn't know each other well since I didn't regularly attend the meetings. But our home towns weren't far apart, and our high schools were in the same conference.

After the parade a few of us went out to celebrate. Friday night culminated a week long series of events and it would be one of the last time many of us would be together. It would be the PR person, the Homecoming Head and a few others going from establishment to establishment on the night. And I thought that would be the last time I would see many of my fellow committee members. But....

The Homecoming PR person - who was not Greek, from the town near mine, and high school in my conference - would see me again a few years later. And thankfully I did participate in a campus activity, because if I hadn't, the PR person and I wouldn't have met, and we wouldn't have been married.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

October 19

October 19 is a date that is very memorable for Iowa Football fans. Many remember the historic game in 1985 as the Hawkeyes were #1 in the nation and hosted the #2 Michigan Wolverines.

A year before the Hawkeyes hosted Michigan and the outcome was very convincing for the home team. Michigan fielded one of their more average teams (finished 6-6 losing to BYU in the Holiday Bowl) and the Hawkeyes won in dominating fashion, 26-0. Entering the game in 1985, the Wolverine defense was one of the most dominant in the nation. Entering the game in Iowa City, Michigan had not allowed the opponent's offense into the end zone.

This was a game before ESPN took its Game Day on the road, and CBS didn't send the game to a national audience. Leading into the 2:30 start was Purdue at Ohio State, and many in the country tuned into Kinnick Stadium, but CBS also carried Auburn and Georgia Tech to the southeast region.

The 1985 team arguably was Hayden Fry's best. Fry, the head coach had already taken one Iowa team to the Rose Bowl in 1981, but this team was led by Heisman Runner-Up, Chuck Long. Long was the hero two weeks earlier as his bootleg into the end zone with :31 left gave the Hawkeyes a 35-31 win over Michigan State. On October 19, 1985 the Hawkeyes couldn't make the Wolverine end zone, but an unknown kicker named Rob Houghtlin kicked four field goals, the last coming with :02 to defeat the Wolverines 12-10

Eleven years later, Hayden Fry took another talented team on the road to Big Ten newcomer Penn State. There were many stars on the Hawkeye team including Tim Dwight a talented skill player from Iowa City.

From the moment we arrived into State College, and then until we left a steady rain came down on us. But the Beaver Stadium turf was covered until the last possible moment before the game, and the field conditions couldn't have been better.

Since coming into the conference the Hawkeyes continued to play better every year, but that doesn't say much. The first encounter between the teams the Nittany Lions dropped the Hawkeyes 31-0. The next year may have been the most talented teams PSU coach Joe Paterno has had. Many Nittany Lions went on to long NFL careers from the squad and demolished the undersized Hawkeyes 61-21. But in 1995 the Hawkeyes showed capable of playing with the newest member of the Big Ten keeping them close but losing in the end 41-27. But in 1996 Fry had a team that was capable of beating anyone, anywhere and it happened in Central Pennsylvania.

The highlight of the day was a Tim Dwight Punt Return that helped the Hawkeyes to a 21-20 victory. It was the biggest victory of the year for Fry, and perhaps the last great win for the veteran coach. It was the last time two of the higher profile college coaches met on the playing field, and Fry won that last meeting.

And although the rains continued, those Iowa fans in attendance saw nothing but a victorious Iowa Football team.

Monday, October 17, 2011

College Football Week 8

I hear many good things about different bands and dance teams, but the Stanford Cardinal are very unique in every way. Their mascot is a tree and their band isn't a typical marching band. They like to break the rules when it comes to college football pageantry.

The experts say the Big Ten is having a down year for football. However every week there is at least one game with an interesting storyline or with national implications. This Saturday that game is Wisconsin at Michigan State. The Badgers lost conference loss came at East Lansing, and under Bret Bielema Wisconsin has had a hard time winning at Spartan Stadium. Bucky has won by 30 or more points in each of their victories in 2011, but that streak may come to an end this week. If the streak continues the national voters need to consider this team to be among the BCS title contenders.

Night Out on the Town

Since the St. Louis Cardinals have made the World Series, and done so behind the help of their first baseman Albert Pujols, it only seems fair we talk about his restaurant in St. Louis, Pujols 5.

It is a basic sports bar in the suburb of Westport. Memorabilia line the walls and the televisions are full of sports. But the food is better than found in many sports bars. The sandwiches are part of the menu, but the entrees are as good as those found in many fine dining establishments.

Of course since it is in St. Louis, Budweiser products are the popular pours on tap.

Sit inside or out, but finding a seat to watch the World Series should be a difficult task if you can't get a ticket to Busch Stadium

Saturday Night Football at Kinnick Stadium

By now many of you have seen the pictures from Iowa's night football game at Kinnick Stadium. Here are a few more that brought national attention to the Hawkeye State. None of the "stunts" pulled Saturday night couldn't be done without the faithful fans of the Hawkeyes. Year after year the fans are asked to do many different things - wear all black, all gold, green for different players (Shonn Greene, Brent Greenwood) - and the Iowa fans have exceeded expectations.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Hawks Defeat Wildcats

After losing to the Wildcats for the last three years, the Iowa Hawkeyes finally righted the ship and defetaed Northwestern 41-31. It was a great night in Kinnick Stadium as the fans honored the United States as well as America's Need for Famers.

The Hawkeyes evened their conference record at 1-1, 4-2 overall. Indiana comes to Kinnick in one week.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Penn State in Pictures

A little late to the party with the photos, but here they are. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the last time for the Iowa Hawkeyes football team to travel to State College, PA as the Nittany Lions will be off the schedule for a few years.

On the right are the many uniforms and equipment laid out for the team prior to Saturday's game. The Beaver Stadium locker room is divided into two sections for offense and defense.
 The Penn State stadium has been on television often over the years attracting many famous men and women to the broadcast booth. A plaque outside the booth has every name that has worked a game there.
 And this was Urban Meyer's first trip to the Beaver Stadium broadcast booth. Here is adds his name to the board that also includes Keith Jackson, Brent Musberger, and Chris Schenkel.
And the different logos outside the booth may be an exaggeration of the different networks that have broadcast a home Nittany Lion game, but Penn State has been on television often throughout the years.
 At Michigan last year we saw the Block "M" on many of the pastries and treats made for the media. Penn State held their own with Lion Paw Prints on the cupcakes.
 Son of Penn State Football coach Joe Paterno is Jay who is on the left speaking with a member of the Penn State Sports Information staff.
 A well-known nickname for Penn State football is "Linebacker U." Over the years the Nittany Lions have turned out some of the greatest linebackers in the history of college football.
And it was a beautiful afternoon in Central PA. The sun sets on Beaver Stadium and the suites that sit atop the east stands. After looking at the suite structure I wondered if they were to look similar to the Keystone emblem that represents the state.

College Football Week 7

Any chance Luke Fickell had to keep his coaching job in Columbus, Ohio walked off the field in Lincoln, Nebraska. The interim coach for the Buckeyes surrendered a 27-6 lead in the 3rd quarter to the Cornhuskers and lost 34-27. Fickell may be in a "no-win" situation with his job as he continues to fight with his Ohio State team on and off the field.

Game of the week in the Big Ten is Michigan at Michigan State. It is an exciting week of sports in the state as baseball's Tigers play for a chance in the World Series. The NFL Lions are undefeated and off to their best start in years, and an undefeated Wolverine squad goes on the road against their in-state rival, "little-brother," and one-loss Spartans. During the last few years under former head coach, Rich Rodriguez, the Wolverines have started fast only to lose down the stretch and maintain enough wins to become bowl-eligible. First year head coach Brady Hoke is determined not to let that happen and a win this week will help erase doubts from Michigan fans.

Night Out on the Town

St. Louis is a great baseball town, and as normal as October baseball is in Yankee Stadium, it is just as common in Busch. Down the street from the Redbirds park is a restaurant with a name very popular to Cardinal nation, Joe Buck's.

Joe Buck is the son of Hall of Fame broadcaster Jack Buck. Both of the Buck's have a long history of broadcasting Cardinal baseball. Joe recently has passed on his local broadcasting duties and is concentrating on his full-time football and baseball role with Fox. But the Buck name continues to draw fans to his restaurant in downtown St. Louis.

Joe Buck's restaurant has transformed from an up-class sports bar to one of the best bar-b-que's in the St. Louis area. The bar-b-que is the seperating factor from many of the other fine dining establishments in the area. And considering this is an establishment with one of the more famous names in the city flocks of fans will continue to support this establsihment mo matter what is on the menu.

And recently Joe Buck's has decided to try and compete with the many clubs in the area by turning its rooftop into a DJ playing relaxed night club. The view is great as it overlooks the city of St. Louis, the Arch and Busch Stadium. The rooftop is only open during the Summer on Friday and Saturday nights. Not a very well-known spot, but a great place to be on a July night.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Penn State's Beaver Stadium

The last time the Hawkeye Football team will visit State College for a number of years, and perhaps the last time legendary Head Coach Joe Paterno will be on the Beaver Stadium side line across from Iowa. It was a beautiful day in one of the historic venues of college football.

Hawks lose 1st Conference Game

The Iowa Hawkeyes continue to look for their first road win of the 2011 season as they were defeated by Penn State 13-3. It was the first win by the Nittany Lions over Iowa since 2007. The loss drops the Hawks to 3-2, 0-1 in the Big Ten play.

It is a night game on October 15th at Kinnick Stadium as Northwestern comes to town. The game can be seen on BTN.

Monday, October 3, 2011

College Football Week 6

Observations from a weekend that allowed me to get caught up on College Football from my couch:

  • Virginia has become a forgotten team. Over the weekend the Cavaliers needed overtime to beat the Idaho Vandals. An ACC team with the tradition of Virginia shouldn't have so much trouble with a team like Idaho at home. This will be the beginning of a very long year.
  • June Jones is quickly taking another down program to the top of its conference. Coming from Hawaii where the Rainbow or Warriors achieved a BCS bowl birth against Georgia in New Orleans, Jones has had the most success at SMU since the boosters stopped paying for their athletes.
  • On October 8th the two best teams from the Big XII square off at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. Oklahoma has handled their non-conference schedule, but this will be their fist outing with a conference opponent. And Mack Brown has shown improvement with his Longhorn squad. Oklahoma will likely be the favorite from the boys in Vegas.
  • The Big Ten have a great team, but how difficult will it be for the Badgers to get the elusive wins to finish unbeaten? A difficult road trip to East Lansing and Columbus will define how good the Badgers are.
  • And I've never bought into Clemson. They are a team that can't live up to expectations and I can't figure out how they get high pre-season ratings. But the road win over Virginia Tech should make me a believer. Not yet. The ACC is a conference they should win if they are as good as last Saturday showed. And not only should they win it, but win it convincingly. I'm still waiting to jump on that bandwagon.

Night Out on the Town

Green Bay, Wisconsin is a very unique spot. Located in the NE corner of the state it is best known for the Packers and the love affair between town and team. Lambeau Field (home to the Packers) is more than a football stadium. Rather it is the central meeting place for citizens to all of the town's events. Traffic comes to a stop on home football Sundays as many of the residents are either at the game or have a job with some relation to what goes on within the stadium. And the tailgating takes place in all parking lots as well as yards and any other place where a car can fit. But across the street from the stadium is one unique pre-game hot spot.

Kroll's West could be mistaken for the closest Perkin's.  It is a family restaurant, which on any weekday is the typical family restaurant that serves most anything for mom, dad, son or daughter. But on a Packer Sunday it transcends into a party for everyone dressed in green and gold.

My only visit to Kroll's was prior to a playoff game in 2002. Not being familiar with the restaurant I saw a parking lot with live bands and a beer garden stocked well beyond what is necessary. But walking in it was the breakfast hot spot around the stadium. But prior to the game it was the outside party atmosphere that attracted me.

Tailgating is either meant for friends around the car in the parking lot, or around a lot of people listening to fine music and drinking cold refreshments. On a cold day in January inside is believed to the prime destination. But those in the the Badger State's northeast corner can handle the cold as if it was a distraction and the live music is the hot spot to be. It is the mail draw before and after each Packer game.

Like many things in Green Bay, Kroll's West is a friendly gathering for all football fans outside Lambeau Field. But it is also a business with split personalities. A family restaurant that jumps with fans of all ages for many hours Sundays in the Fall

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Drake Football

In America football is the most popular sport. The discussion comes up if it is more popular at the high school, college or professional level. Merchandise sales and overall TV ratings may say the professional level is tops while the high schools has the support of each local town throughout the country. However I think the most popular level of the sport may come at the college level. Every Saturday stadiums draw alums, students or the general fan. And there are fans at every level of the college game. While some stadiums are closer to capacity than others, fans still come out to support their local team.

Today my son and I went to the stadium that my dad and I ventured to often when I was young. My dad was the Drake grad, and thirty years ago the historic stadium seemed as big as the college stadium in Iowa City. But now as I return, the sides aren't as tall, and the crowds aren't as large. But fans and students continue to turn out to support their Bulldogs.
And on a beautiful day where there was no competition for the fan's attention from Iowa (Bye Week), Iowa State (night game) or any of the other local teams, fans turned out. But no more than a typical day compared to the one of today. Drake defeated Campbell 31-14 and continued to improve its Pioneer Football League Standings.

A week from today the Hawkeyes return to action in State College, Pennsylvania.