Commentary: Iowa-Nebraska on Black Friday a perfect match


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What’s not to like?

Monday’s announcement that Iowa and Nebraska will play each other on Black Friday for at least the next two years may surprise some, but it shouldn’t.

It makes way too much sense.

As soon as Big Ten division alignments were announced in September, Hawkeye and Cornhusker fans began salivating at the idea of an annual meeting — and for good reason. The states border each other, neither has any professional sports teams, and the schools boast similar football cultures and fan followings.

Now, the two soon-to-be Legends Division (Do we really have to keep calling it that?) rivals will see the prominence of their annual meeting bolstered even further.

This gives Iowa the opportunity for a truly “branded” rivalry. Not branded in the literal sense — see the overly sponsored Hy-Vee Cy-Hawk series between Iowa and Iowa State — but in terms of resonance.

Are any of Iowa’s current rivalries relevant at a national level? Minnesota and Iowa State haven’t been competitive on a consistent enough basis for their games with the Hawkeyes to warrant national attention.

Wisconsin? Closer, but few Badgers consider Iowa their biggest rival. Consider the fact that their annual matchup with Minnesota — the Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe — is the Football Bowl Subdivision’s longest-running rivalry, and it’s hard to argue.

This matchup, however, is perfect.

For at least the next couple years, both squads appear as if they will have a big say in who claims their division’s spot in the Big Ten football championship game. Though both saw unfulfilled expectations this past season, there’s little reason to believe they both won’t be back on track in the fall.

This also becomes the only annual matchup in which seemingly the rest of the Big Ten is watching — besides, of course, that little game played between a school from Ohio and a school from Michigan every year on the final Saturday of the league’s regular season.

Make no mistake, Michigan-Ohio State will remain the granddaddy of Big Ten rivalries for pretty much ever. Scheduling Iowa-Nebraska one day before, however, ensures the annual Wolverine/Buckeye clash won’t overshadow it.

Sure, the Friday following Thanksgiving is already full of classic, hate-injected college football rivalries — including the Iron Bowl between Auburn and Alabama (they kill each other’s trees for Christ’s sake) and my personal favorite, the Backyard Brawl between Pittsburgh and West Virginia — but it’s not flooded.

Nebraska and Iowa’s “Farmageddon” — as some are dubbing it — should fit right in. After all, Nebraska has already long been involved in Friday-after-Thanksgiving games, most recently meeting Colorado annually, and before that, Oklahoma. I can’t say I know exactly what Husker Nation thinks about losing its matchup with the Buffaloes, but something tells me (perhaps it’s Colorado’s 13-23 record over the last three seasons) that it isn’t too disappointed. Nebraska won’t play Colorado for the next two years, anyway.

And for Iowa, it virtually guarantees a meaningful, competitive game to end the season with. That’s something that, besides a bizarre upset this past November, Minnesota hasn’t been able to provide the Hawkeyes with recently (let’s be real: The Gophers just aren’t very good).

So call it Farmageddon. Call it Farm Friday. The Barn Bowl. Whatever catchy, stereotypically rural slogan you can think up.

I’ll call it a match made in heaven.

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