16 posts categorized "Iowa State Sports"

September 08, 2011

Iowa-Iowa State 10 years ago

Every generation, it seems, has that riveting moment, when there's an event of such magnitude that you'll always remember where you were when the news broke. My parents' generation had Pearl Harbor. For those of us who are Baby Boomers, it was President Kennedy's assassination (sixth-period study hall in the eighth grade at Elida Junior High School). Those born after JFK was shot had the September 11 terrorist attacks 10 years ago.

Pam and I were in the kitchen, watching one of the morning news shows on our 9-inch portable TV, when the jets slammed into the Twin Towers. I was getting ready to drive to Ames for Iowa State's weekly football press conference and, with a full staff in the AP Des Moines office working on the Iowa angles, I was still free to see what was happening at ISU.

It was eeriely quiet. All the regular reporters were there, but the normal kidding and jocularity was absent. Everyone seemed compelled to speak in hushed tones. The Iowa-Iowa State game was to be played in Ames that Saturday and it was like no one wanted to appear crass enough to ask the question until someone finally ventured, "Do you think they'll play the game?"

The question went unanswered that day, a Tuesday. The next day, the two schools announced they would play. A day later, the game was off, part of a domino effect of postponements started by the NFL. Eventually, officials from the schools decided to reschedule the game for the end of the season, on November 24.

Maybe it was because of what led to the new date, but I didn't notice the rancor and pettiness among fans that usually occurs during the week of this game. The terrorist attacks had given us a new perspective on sports. Also, both teams were 6-5, so each had a good chance of going to a bowl regardless of who won. No need to get upset about anything. Just play football. And it turned out to be one of the better games in the series -- for me, maybe the most enjoyable of all the Iowa-Iowa State games I've covered.

Iowa State won 17-14. The game wasn't decided until ISU's Adam Runk made a late interception and quarterback Seneca Wallace ran for a first down that enabled the Cyclones to run out the clock. Both teams received bowl bids and Iowa got the better deal: the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio. Iowa State went to the Independence Bowl in Shreveport.

So, which game to cover? I'd never had to make that choice because this was the first time in my career that both teams went to a bowl. Hmmm.

Actually, it was an easy decision. Sorry, Cyclones, I just couldn't pass up a chance to go to San Antonio and hang out on the River Walk. Which I did -- after spending each day working, of course.

Now it's 10 years later and we're getting ready for another Iowa-Iowa State game. Iowa State needs to win more than Iowa does because when you look at the Cyclones' schedule, you don't see many potential victories. But the Hawkeyes have regained the momentum in this series and they're going to play just as hard to keep it going.

Just give me a game that's close and entertaining and I'll mark it down as a good day.


November 03, 2010

So long, Big Red

It's going to feel a little strange when Nebraska plays Iowa State in Ames on Saturday. Because it most likely will be the very last time we see the Cornhuskers at Jack Trice Stadium.

That's too bad, and I say that even though the games with Nebraska usually have turned out  badly for Iowa State. They've been playing each other since 1896 and this will be the 105th game between the two rivals, though it's hard to call the series a rivalry because it's so lopsided. Iowa State has won only 18 of those games.

Still, the Cornhuskers always have been an attraction when they showed up. They had such tradition and such good players. No matter how much you'd read about Turner Gill, Mike Rozier, Roger Craig, Ahman Green, Tommie Frazier, Eric Crouch and, the best name of all, I.M. Hipp, and no matter how often you watched them on TV, it was much more interesting to see them in person.

Besides, the Nebraska helmets always were good for a joke, you know, the one about the big red "N" standing for Nowledge.

The few times Iowa State did manage to beat Nebraska made it all the more satisfying for the Cyclones. Heck, in most cases, it made their season. To this day, the most memorable play I've ever seen from the Cyclones came against Nebraska. It was the 1992 game and if the name Marv Seiler pops to mind, we're thinking alike.

Iowa State prevailed 19-10 in a game it had no business winning. Nebraska was ranked seventh in the country and coming off routs of Colorado (52-7) and Kansas (49-7), both nationally ranked. Iowa State was 3-6 and a 28-point underdog.

The Cyclones led 12-10 early in the fourth quarter after four Ty Stewart field goals, but it seemed inevitable that Nebraska would get serious, score a couple of quick touchdowns and put it away. That was Seiler, a fifth-year senior making the first start of his career at quarterback, became an unlikely hero. From his own 20, Seiler kept the ball on an option to the right, found daylight as he turned upfield and headed for the far-off end zone.

Marvelous Marv went 78 yards before safety Tyrone Byrd dragged him down 2 yards short of a touchdown. Byrd caught Seiler about 20 yards earlier and tried to strip the ball as he rode him. Then, it was like Byrd realized, "Hey, I better bring this guy down before he scores."

Fullback Chris Ulrich did score on the next play, but it  wouldn't have mattered if he hadn't. Seiler's run had dissipated whatever wind was left in Nebraska's sails.

After Saturday, Nebraska can start a new rivalry in this state. The Cornhuskers are leaving the Big 12 for what they perceive as greener pastures in the Big Ten and they'll play Iowa every year. It'll be fun to see how that matchup develops over the years.

Any Iowa future Iowa State-Nebraska game would have to come in a bowl. At least, that's the only time they should meet.  Scheduling Nebraska as a non-conference opponent would be absolutely foolish. With the Cyclones playing nine conference games starting next season and Iowa on the schedule for the foreseeable future, ISU needs to fill those other slots with schools that have directions or hyphens in their name. Nebraska-Omaha is fine. Nebraska is not.

And here's another piece of advice for Iowa State administrators: Don't even think about scheduling Utah again.


September 24, 2010

Big day at Iowa State

Another football Saturday at Iowa State is coming up and this one is huge.

It has nothing to do with the opponent (Northern Iowa) or the date (September 25) or the type of game we can expect (entertaining and competitive).

No, this game is big for a much more important reason.

It's Taco Day!

Iowa State serves up a pretty good spread in its pressbox on game days. Maybe not always the healthiest fare, but the menu changes with each game and the food is nicely prepared and tasty. And there's plenty of it.

They never put out a bad meal, either. But ISU pressbox veterans -- and I'm among the most veteran of all -- will tell you the tacos are the best of the lot. You can get beef or chicken (or both), hard shell or soft shell (or both), lettuce, tomatoes (not on my plate) and chips that you can drown with a thick, gooey cheese sauce.

As I said, we're not talking healthy eating here. But hey, once in a while you've got to stop to smell the nachos.

This year, though, there's a complication that will make things a bit more challenging.

Used to be, you could go up and down the food line as often as you wanted. Then, at halftime, out came dessert. Sometimes it was cookies, sometimes it was cupcakes, other times it was brownies or lemon bars. Whatever the item, few managed the discipline to resist them.

Now, to cut costs -- which is entirely understandable in these times -- the food folks limit you to one trip through the line. And the dessert is out there, too, so you have to work that onto your plate as well. You can pile on as much as you want, but only once.

So what's a taco-holic to do? Two huge soft shells? Three or four smaller hard shells? Stack the nachos and cheese sauce on top of everything else?

Hmm, this is going to require some strategy. Good thing the game doesn't start until 6 p.m. Gives me more time to plot.

Lest you think that's the only reason I'm going to Iowa State on Saturday, I just want to note that when kickoff approaches, I'll have my game face on (hopefully free of dried cheese sauce), eager and ready to pay attention and work.

Will I remember to wave at my friends Jim and Joyce at the end of the first quarter?

Probably not.

But it won't be because I have another plate of nachos beside me.


August 04, 2010

A day almost no one likes

Ah, yes, it's that time again, time for college football media days. They're among the rites of August, like the State Fair or back-to-school shopping. Everybody is undefeated and a bowl contender. The players are bigger, faster and stronger. They can't wait until that first game. Optimism courses through the team like the river of water that rushes through our front yard when it rains.

All the players and coaches are available for interviews, so it's easy for the reporters. Most everyone is smiling and happy.

Yet hardly anyone likes media days.

For reporters, it's the same thing every year -- listen to the coach talk for awhile, ask him some questions, then head out to the field and wait while the players have all sorts of "official" photographs taken.

Rarely does anything new come out of these sessions, other than maybe a player being suspended for some off-the-field transgression or learning of a couple of guys who, for one reason or the other, won't return. Players are coached to stick to the company line and answer questions politely but with caution so they don't say anything controversial.

For the players, it has to be even worse. It's usually hot and sticky and they're out there in full uniform in the middle of the day. Most end up sitting or standing around the whole time because they're not the stars and no one wants to talk to them, though I imagine for some, that's just fine.

The stars, meanwhile, are paraded in front of TV cameras, where they answer the same questions over and over. Finished with those interviews, they're promptly surrounded by writers and radio types and get the same questions yet again. I mean, how many times can Iowa State's Austen Arnaud come up with a creative way to answer when he's asked for the umpteeth time if the offense will be better now that everyone has a year of experience with coordinator Tom Herman's system.

Oh, and don't forget the photographers, who arrange the players in all kinds of silly poses to try to get something different. I'd like to see them go retro, back to those black and white photos of the 1940s and '50s, you know, the ones with the quarterback cocking his arm like he's getting ready to pass, the running back in a swivel-hipped pose while stiff-arming an imaginary opponent, the wide receiver pretending he's leaping to catch a pass and my personal favorite, a defensive lineman diving to the ground with arms and legs outstretched because, well, what else do you do with a defensive lineman?

So, why does everyone put themselves through this yearly exercise?

Mainly because that's just the way things are done. With everyone available in one place, reporters can stock up on stories for a couple of weeks. As repetitive as the questions might be, the players and coaches can get them out of the way in one day and then start concentrating on football. The school gets a ton of free publicity because newspapers and Web sites display their media day coverage prominently. It might be a drag, but in the end, everyone benefits.

Plus, if you're at Iowa State, like I was today, you can always go to Hickory Park for lunch. And that makes enduring almost anything tolerable.

June 16, 2010

If it looks like a bribe, sounds like a bribe and smells like a bribe ...

By remaining in the Big 12 Conference, Texas can cast itself as the good guy, the savior even. The Longhorns stay, the Big 12 lives on. No matter that it has only 10 members, thanks to us, it's still a league. Aren't we wonderful?

The reality, though, is that the Longhorns were bribed. And so were Oklahoma and Texas A&M.

Had those three schools left, the Big 12 would have broken up, leaving Iowa State, Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State and Baylor homeless. That wouldn't do. So they offered to give up part of their expected increase in league-wide revenue and hand it over to Texas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M -- already the three richest programs in the league -- if they'd stay in the conference.

Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe says ISU and the four others agreed to give up their share of the penalty that Nebraska and Colorado will pay ffor leaving the league. ISU athletic director Jamie Pollard disputes that. But he does say ISU and the four others will compensate Texas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M for any revenue  they might have lost by staying instead of fleeing to the Pac-10.

In other words, we'll pay you guys to keep playing with us.

You also can expect the Big Three to collect more television revenue than the others, which already is happening. Unlike the Big Ten, the Big 12 doesn't divvy up TV money equally among its members.

What's more, Texas gets the go-ahead to start its own TV network if it chooses -- and keep all the money. The rich just keep getting richer.

When I mentioned the bribery angle to an Iowa State fan the other day, she said she didn't care because her Cyclones wouldn't have to find a new league. Most other ISU fans probably feel the same way because the program will be better off in the end. Instead of 12 schools splitting revenue, it'll be divided only 10 ways, so Iowa State figures to get more money, not to mention the prestige of remaining in a BCS conference.

Some other issues will come into play. All 10 schools will play each other in football every year, meaning the Cyclones will face Texas and Oklahoma annually instead of twice every four years. Nine conference games will mean one less non-conference game. Does that leave room for the Iowa State-Iowa game to continue? We'll see.

In basketball, everyone probably will play a full round-robin of 18 conference games instead of 16. With Nebraska and Colorado no longer available to kick around on the hardwood, the league gets even tougher. As ISU women's basketball coach Bill Fennelly put it, the conference went from best to bestest.

For now, math purists must be offended by these conferences. The Pac-10 has 11 teams, the Big Ten has 12 and the Big 12 has 10.

But hey, what's in a name? Besides, the only numbers that count anymore in college athletics are those that have a dollar sign in front of them.

April 27, 2010

A good deal for everyone -- except maybe UNI

Who would have thought a decision at the University of Oregon could have such ramifications in Iowa -- and at Iowa State in particular?

Oregon hires Creighton's Dana Altman as its basketball coach and the ink's not even dry on his contract when Creighton AD Bruce Rasmussen swoops in and grabs Iowa State coach Greg McDermott to replace Altman. Thanks to Oregon's move, Iowa State and McDermott both benefit.

McDermott, good guy that he is, was going to be a lame duck coach with the Cyclones if he stuck around for another season. With what little they have coming back, they were looking at potentially their worst season ever under McDermott and AD Jamie Pollard would have had to fire him -- and pay a huge buyout.

Now, Iowa State receives $800,000 because Creighton has to buy out McDermott's contract and the school can start fresh with a new coach. If you're going to struggle, it's better to do so with a new guy who can't be blamed for what he inherits as opposed to losing again under the old regime. Maybe Pollard can pull somebody out of his hat to get folks excited about basketball, the way he did with football coach Paul Rhoads.

As for McDermott, he gets a good job that will pay him a lot of money. It's unlikely he would have gotten such an opportunity if he had stayed at ISU and then been fired. Plus, I think -- as do most others -- that McDermott will be more comfortable back in the Missouri Valley Conference, where he had success at Northern Iowa before moving to Iowa State.

In the Big 12, you need to recruit elite athletes to win and they bring elite egos, not to mention "advisers" and other hangers-on. In the Missouri Vallley, you get kids who've been told they're a half-step too slow or a couple of inches too short for the big time. They've got something to prove. They work hard and take to coaching. They go to class and they stay four years, enabling a team to develop some great chemistry. It always helps to have athletic ability, but Valley coaches can win with execution and discipline and that plays to McDermott's strengths.

The other part of this story is McDermott's son, Doug, who helped Ames High School win the last two Class 4A state championships and signed with Northern Iowa. Greg McDermott says Doug now will play for him at Creighton, though UNI's AD, Troy Dannen, has to sign off on that before it can happen.

It's kind of awkward, really. Greg McDermott and UNI coach Ben Jacobson are close friends. They'll face each other in the MVC two times a year for sure and three if they'd happen to meet in the conference tournament. Then you'd have Jacobson watching the best player in his recruiting class suiting up for the other guy. 

What's puzzling to me is why Greg McDermott didn't recruit his son to play for the Cyclones. Was he afraid of being criticized for bringing in a player that some might think wasn't good enough? Heck, the kid's a good player. He would have helped the Cyclones. At the state tournament last month, I was talking with Chuck Reed, a longtime friend who does color commentary on the telecasts of the tourney games. We figured that Doug McDermott would play at least 20 minutes a game at Northern Iowa, but joked that if he went to Iowa State he'd be good enough to play 40.

Joking aside, the onus is on Pollard to strike gold with a new coach. Iowa State fans have been a patient lot through the years. Eventually, they have a right to see their patience rewarded with some victories and NCAA tournament appearances.


December 06, 2009

What one second can do for you

It doesn't matter how old you might be, you can always learn something new.

Take last night, for instance. Who knew Sully's Irish Pub in West Des Moines attracted so many Texas fans? We're there toasting a Drake basketball victory, friendship and any other excuse we can dream up for drinking Irish coffee and Guinness. The Nebraska-Texas game is on television and a huge cheer erupts when Texas kicks its game-winning field goal as time expires.

Funny thing, there's not a hint of burnt orange or Longhorns' gear in sight, yet a lot of people are really excited. Hook 'em Horns, right?

Well, not quite.

We're being facetious about all of this, of course. Those weren't Texas fans celebrating. They were Iowa fans -- and there no doubt were whoops and hollers in bars across the state when Hunter Lawrence's field goal sailed through the uprights. Because the Texas victory improved the Hawkeyes' chances of landing a berth in a BCS bowl.

But Iowa fans everywhere had to be squirming as Texas quarterback Colt McCoy rolled to his right with the final seconds ticking away. When he finally threw the ball away, the clocked showed zeros and the Nebraska players rushed the field, thinking they had won the game 12-10 and clinched the Big 12's BCS berth. But the play was reviewed, one second was put back on the clock and Lawrence came through.

And that one second has made all the difference. What if the Longhorns had committed one of the biggest blunders ever and really let time run out? What if the official review determined time had indeed expired?

Oh my.

A Nebraska victory would have sent shock waves rippling through the entire bowl scenario. It would have put the Cornhuskers in the Fiesta Bowl and dropped Texas into the at-large pool, from where the Longhorns might have bumped Iowa from a BCS game.

With two Big 12 teams in BCS bowls, Iowa State would have moved up in the pecking order and the conference wouldn't have had enough teams to fill its bowl commitments, which would have affected other bowls. If no Big Ten team got into a BCS game, everyone in the league would have moved down a notch and that also would have impacted other bowls.

Imagine the hand-wringing that would have ensued, not to mention the fact that TCU or maybe Cincinnati would have ended up in the BCS championship game against Alabama.

But one measly second and a calm, accurate kicker kept the BCS house in order. So Iowa fans, you might want to try to get Lawrence's cell phone number and send him some congratulatory text messages. And maybe a thank-you note to that replay official.

As for Texas, one touchdown and 13 points isn't going to strike any fear in Alabama hearts. After the way Nebraska manhandled McCoy and the Longhorns, the Tide defense has to be licking its chops.

Mack Brown and his offensive coaches had best be getting to work soon. They've got a lot to figure out between now and Jan. 7.

November 25, 2009

Let's go bowling

Be wary of what lurks within, Iowa football fans.

Within your own conference.

As the Dec. 6 bowl selection date approaches, Hawkeye fans are justifiably excited about the possibility of their team landing an at-large invitation to a BCS bowl. Iowa has finished its regular season at 10-2 and is 11th in the BCS rankings, so the Hawkeyes are eligible for one of the four at-large spots in the big-money bowls.

The Florida-Alabama loser in the SEC championship game will get one. That leaves three. TCU will be guaranteed a spot if it  finishes unbeaten, which is almost certain to happen. That leaves two. If Boise State goes unbeaten, the Broncos will be hard to ignore. So we could be talking about just one at-large berth remaining.

At first glance, Oklahoma State appears to be Iowa's main competitor, if the Cowboys beat Oklahoma in their Bedlam Series game on Saturday. Okie State is 12th in the BCS standings now and would finish 10-2 with a victory over the Sooners.

But Penn State, 13th in the BCS standings and also 10-2, is really the team to be concerned about. Yes,  the Hawkeyes beat Penn State in Happy Valley and were more competitive against Ohio State than the Nittany Lions. But the Iowa loss was a long time ago, back in September. Plus, Penn State has more national cache than Iowa, has a better offense than the Hawkeyes (just about every decent team does) and they have Joe Paterno, who's certainly more colorful and a better draw than Kirk Ferentz (With no offense intended to Kirk. That's just the way it is).

In Iowa's favor: The Hawkeyes did beat Penn State, they find a way to hang around no matter the opponent or circumstances and, most importantly to the bowl folks, they'll put a lot of butts in the seats and spend a lot of money in the hotels and restaurants.

I think Iowa's going to get that at-large spot, in the Fiesta Bowl. But if that's your hope, it wouldn't hurt to be pulling for Oklahoma this weekend, just in case. And you better hope that Nebraska doesn't upset Texas in the Big 12 championship game.

If that happens, all bets are off.

Now, what about Iowa State?

The Big 12 has eight guaranteed bowl slots, including a BCS game, and right now, eight teams are eligible. It could be nine if Kansas beat Missouri on Saturday.

Should that happen, I look for Iowa State still to get the nod over Kansas for a Big 12 bowl, even though the Jayhawks beat the Cyclones. Iowa State fans will travel, the Jayhawks have gone in the tank since beating ISU on Oct. 10 -- they've lost six straight -- and things are generally a mess in Lawrence with coach Mark Mangino being investigated for verbal and emotional abuse.

So, if you're a bowl, do you want Kansas and all that baggage or do you want an Iowa State team with a new coach who's invigorating the program and would be excited just to be there, wherever it may be. Of course, this all could be moot if Kansas loses to Missouri, which is likely to happen.

It could be the Insight Bowl in Phoenix. It could be the Independence Bowl in Shreveport. But the Cyclones are going bowling. And I say good for them.

October 26, 2009

Credit where credit's due

Why has it become so hard in sports to give the other team credit for something?

Your team loses and it's because the players gave the game away. Or your team had some bad luck. Or there were some fluky plays. And, of course, the refs/officials/umps screwed us.

This comes up in the wake of the narrow but significant victories the Iowa State and Iowa football teams posted over the weekend.

Iowa State came up with eight turnovers in a 9-7 victory at Nebraska -- the Cyclones' first win in Lincoln in 32 years. If Florida or Alabama or even Nebraska had eight takeaways, fans and pundits would be slobbering all over themselves about the great defense they played.

Case in point: Alabama defensive lineman Terrence Cody -- who has all of 17 tackles this year (and no sacks) -- blocked two kicks to help preserve the Tide's 12-10 win over Tennessee and now he's being talked about in some circles as a Heisman Trophy candidate.

Iowa State gets eight turnovers and it's a fluke. The Cyclones got lucky. Nebraska shot itself in the foot. One NU fan said the Cornhuskers had to give Iowa State the game for the Cyclones to win it.

OK, when Nebraska receiver Miles Paul loses the ball as he headed to the end zone, maybe that's a fluke. But ISU safety James Smith never gave up on the play and that's why he was in position to recover the ball when it squirted from Paul's grasp like a wet trout.

As for the other turnovers, it sure looked like the Cyclones created them. They punched the ball away or simply wrested it from Nebraska runners. Say what you want about interceptions off tipped balls, but somebody on the defense has to be in position to tip it. And how about the hops 6-foot, 234-pound linebacker Jesse Smith showed when he jumped to make that last interception? He got it because he was in the right place.

One Nebraska player lamented, ``Luck's not going our way right now.'' But just who was the unlucky team? Iowa State played without its starting quarterback and running back, several players were puking in buckets because they were sick and defensive back Ter'ran Benton went out in the first half with a broken leg. Now that's bad luck.

You've got to hand it to Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, though, because he made no excuses. He told reporters he didn't want to say the Cornhuskers beat themselves because that would discredit what Iowa State did.

Still, the Huskers might want to put in just a wee bit more time on ball security drills.

As for Iowa's 15-13 win at Michigan State, Ricky Stanzi's last-play touchdown pass to Marvin McNutt made all the highlight shows and deservedly so.

But if Florida's Tim Tebow had done that, oh my gosh. It would have been his Heisman moment. Touchdown Timmy does it again. We would have heard about it from now until the ceremony.

Iowa pulls it off and well, the Hawkeyes are barely scraping by. That was a bad call when the MSU defensive back was flagged for holding just before intercepting a pass on the final drive. The Spartans weren't in the right kind of defense. And so and so on.

Check the replay and yes, Michigan State had no defenders in the middle of the end zone. Once McNutt got inside position, his defender was toast. But how about giving McNutt credit for getting in that position and some kudos to Stanzi for his quick read in recognizing the situation.

What's wrong with saying, ``You know, those other guys made some great plays. That's why they won.''

Is that so hard to admit?

October 23, 2009

MVP and other topics

Iowa football beat writer Andrew Logue posed a thought-provoking question in The Des Moines Register this week. Who's the Hawkeyes' most valuable player?


That requires some deliberation because the Hawkeyes don't have a big star, which is one reason they haven't caught the nation's fancy despite their 7-0 record and conference-leading 3-0 mark in the Big Ten.

Tight end Tony Moeaki would have been a good choice had he been healthy all season. He's certainly been a big factor the last two games, but the Hawkeyes won all three games he missed. Other than Moeaki, the offense has been just good enough to keep the team from losing.

That leaves us with the defense, the strength of this team. Defensive end Adrian Clayborn would be a good choice. So would linebacker Pat Angerer, cornerback Amari Spievey and safety Tyler Sash.

I'll go with Sash. He's a sure tackler (third on the team with 52) and he's shown a nose for the ball with his five interceptions. Hardly anything or anyone has gotten past him this season.

And while we're at it, let's throw a few crumbs to punter Ryan Donahue. When a team relies on its defense as much as Iowa does, a solid punter can be a huge help and Donahue definitely has done his part. He's put 16 of his 32 punts inside the opponent's 20-yard line, giving his defense a big edge in field position. Thirteen of Donahue's punts have been returned, but for an average of just 3.5 yards, so he's getting good hang time. He might not spend much time on the field, but he's still a valuable cog.

As long as we're on the Hawkeyes, here's an admonishment: Stop it! Put a lid on that talk about playing in the national championship game -- at least for now.

Yeah, it's great that Iowa is undefeated and sixth in the BCS standings. But there's just too much football to be played to be dreaming about that Jan. 7 title game in Pasadena. OK, you can dream, but be realistic enough to understand that it might not happen.

Five games remain, including two tough ones on the road. The Hawkeyes play at Michigan State tomorrow night and they've lost to Sparty four straight times in East Lansing. A fifth straight loss there is entirely possible. If Iowa gets by that one -- it's also entirely possible the Hawkeyes could win -- they're still facing a Nov. 14 game at Ohio State. Iowa hasn't won in Columbus since 1991. So caution is advised.

Having said that, I think the worst the Hawkeyes will end up is 10-2. And that might still be good enough to claim a berth in a BCS bowl. Maybe.

The thing is, the polls might punish Iowa severely if it would lose a game. The Big Ten isn't held in such high esteem right now and there evidently are still a lot of Hawkeye skeptics out there just waiting to say, ``See, I told you so.'' After Iowa beat Penn State, it took the Hawkeyes three weeks to move ahead of the Nittany Lions in the coaches' poll. And even then, Iowa landed just one spot above Joe Pa's bunch, despite a convincing 21-10 victory on the Nittany Lions' home field.

It would be unfortunate if all the talk of an unbeaten season right now would result in 11-1 or 10-2 being viewed as a disappointment. Back in August, any Iowa fan would have celebrated that kind of record.

And now to our final topic, Marquis Gilstrap.

Gilstrap is the Iowa State basketball player who's getting a huge buildup. Though he's yet to play a minute for the Cyclones, he's seen as someone who can turn Iowa State into a team that finally makes some noise in the Big 12.

Gilstrap already has been voted the league's newcomer of the year. Texas Tech coach Pat Knight says he wishes he had recruited Gilstrap. Knight also says the 6-foot-7 forward is as good as any McDonald's All-American the Cyclones could have landed. Nebraska coach Doc Sadler says Gilstrap will be a ``great player.'' ISU coach Greg McDermott says Gilstrap is just what his team has been missing -- a versatile wing player who can shoot, rebound and take the ball to the hoop with authority.

Wow. You have to wonder if anyone could live up to that kind of hype. He sounds like the real deal, but how many times have we seen the next big thing turn out to be not quite as advertised?

On the other hand, there's something that tells me Cyclone fans have every right to be excited about Gilstrap. Mike Green, an associate director of athletic communications at ISU, is the eternal pessimist. If there's something to be down about, Beener will find it. But he's seen Gilstrap in action and says the guy can really play.

Hey, if Beener says that, I'm going with it. Keep the hype coming.