Hawkeyes-Gophers overshadowed by busy weekend, new playoff format

Andrew Logue
Iowa's tight end Jake Duzey, right, celebrates his touchdown with offensive lineman Andrew Donnal, top, and wide receiver Tevaun Smith, bottom, during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Indiana Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, in Iowa City, Iowa.

Maybe, in a bygone era, there would be more of a buzz surrounding Saturday's football game at Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium.

It's the 108th meeting between the Gophers and the Iowa Hawkeyes. Both own solid 6-2 records overall, 3-1 in the Big Ten. Both are in a four-way scramble for the West Division title. And both are receiving votes in the top 25 coaches' poll.

Yet, nobody east of the Quad Cities or west of Omaha seems to notice.

"That's fine with me," Hawkeye lineman Andrew Donnal said. "The less hype, sometimes, that's better."

A lot of attention is focused on another Big Ten showdown: No. 13 Ohio State visiting No. 7 Michigan State.

The winner of that primetime contest in East Lansing, Mich., gains an inside track to the East Division crown - and most importantly, solidifies itself as the Big Ten's best hope of earning a spot in the inaugural four-team College Football Playoff.

When you consider the implications, it's easy to see why Iowa-Minnesota is sort of an afterthought within the conference.

When it comes to the national landscape, this weekend's schedule includes five other games matching ranked teams.

"I think in any year (Iowa-Minnesota) might have been a bit overshadowed," said Dave Revsine, lead studio host for the Big Ten Network.

Revsine's new book "The Opening Kickoff, the Tumultuous Birth of a Football Nation" details the sport's origins in the late 1800s.

It also explains how divisive issues such as pay-for-play have always been a source of consternation.

This, however, feels different.

Even with an impressive roster of competing games, there may be another reason Iowa-Minnesota is lost in the shuffle.

Does a restructured postseason cause people to care less about longshots?

"If we weren't in the playoff era, we'd be talking about the chances of those teams making it to the Rose Bowl," Revsine said. "College football, I still believe, is the best regular season in all of sports.

"But it's always been focused on kind of what's going to happen at the end."

Neither the Hawkeyes nor Gophers appeared in this week's playoff rankings. They're on the outside looking in. And as everyone adapts to this format, fewer people will rally around rivalries based on mostly tradition.

Sorry, Floyd of Rosedale.

"I don't even know how the playoffs work," Iowa defensive tackle Carl Davis said. "Nobody knows how it's really going to happen. It gets more clear once the end of November comes."

Every Iowa-Minnesota game since 2001 has been televised.

Last year, it aired regionally on ABC, along with Florida State-Boston College, helping the network draw 2.9 million viewers during the 2:30 p.m. time slot.

Saturday's 11 a.m. contest will be shown on ESPN2, opposite No. 10 Baylor verses No. 16 Oklahoma on Fox Sports 1.

"We'd rather fly under the radar," Donnal said. "Whether we're doing that, or we're the most talked about team in the league, it doesn't change anything about what we're trying to do Saturday."