It's great to have college football back. I love nearly everything about it, even the fans who get far too carried away after their team looks good against an over-matched cupcake. Hype makes it more fun, though it does often lead to disappointment.
What did we learn about Iowa State? We know the Cyclones are bigger, faster, and stronger than they were last year. We know they've progressed to the point where they can look sloppy and still blow out a team they should blow out. That's good.
What did we learn about Iowa? We know the Hawkeyes looked like a team again. The focus, intensity, and discipline missing from last year's flop finale against Western Michigan were back against Maine. That's good too. But it was Maine.
Now to things I don't know, but think. I think Jake Christensen will be Iowa's starting quarterback. He moved the team better than Ricky Stanzi, and though Jake made a couple of terrible throws, he made mostly good decisions.
Anytime a team's struggling, the most popular quarterback is the back-up, and over the years, there is no place in America where that's more true than Iowa City. Fans know what they're getting with Christensen, and they're underwhelmed. They like Stanzi's upside, but the coaches fear his downside. Look for Jake under center when it counts.
In Ames, it's Arnaud. Experience counts, and there's no reason to rotate guys with similar assets. However, I think Gene Chizik has to find a way to put Phillip Bates on the field. When you're Iowa State, you can't afford to have a play-maker watching from the sideline. Bates is a play-maker. Ask a Hawkeye fan.
Jack Trice Stadium is finally starting to look like it belongs in the Big 12. They're just getting started on the renovations, but it's already an upgrade.
Speaking of upgrades, the uniforms are better looking, but the color change is so drastic, it's almost like watching a different team. It's going to take time getting used to the change from McDonald's red and yellow, to USC's maroon and gold.
The I-State change is good for Iowa State's bottom line because I see the new merchandise everywhere. It's selling.
Of all the carried away sentiment going around---and that's part of being a fan---none is more over the top than the runaway praise for Jewel Hampton. Yes, he looked great in the fourth quarter against Maine. But it was Maine. The second team Iowa defense tests Hampton more in practice. Give him some time.
Shonn Greene looked great. Wait until he gets in shape.
Good call by our Hawkeye insider, Jon Miller of Hawkeye Nation.com. On his weekly channel 13 segment, Jon predicted Iowa would win 44 to 3. He overlooked the safety. Maybe next time he'll get it right.
Who do you think would win if South Dakota State played Maine? That actually sounds like a competitive game. I say Maine wins.
As I'm writing this, UCLA just upset Tennessee in overtime. Awesome. How can you not love college football.
We're cranking up two RVs Monday morning, thanks to Born Free in Humboldt. This year we're taking RVTV on a road trip. Andy, Shawn, Chris and I will start in Ames on Monday, go to Marshalltown Tuesday, the Iowa Speedway in Newton Wednesday, Oskaloosa Thursday, and arrive in Iowa City for Friday & Saturday. If you have any Cy-Hawk story ideas, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org, and if you get the chance, please come see us (but not too early in the morning. The ISU band did that once last year. We're still recovering.).
How 'bout Lolo Jones calling in to SoundOff from Switzerland at 5:45 a.m. local time. Lolo is the best. Lolo is always an interesting interview, even when half asleep. She says the thing she keeps playing over and over in mind was that she could have won the gold medal on cruise control, but decided to "try and amaze people". The burst caused her to clip a hurdle. She amazed us anyway. (By the way, as promised, I forwarded your notes from here to Lolo.)
Many of you asked why Lolo didn't get a "Welcome Back Celebration" like Shawn. Simple. Lolo hasn't returned yet. She's running track meets in Switzerland this week, and beat the Olympic champion easily. That's the way to get back on the horse.
When Lolo does finally return to Des Moines, I have no doubt many people will show her how proud we are. She deserves it. It won't be the nearly 10,000 who showed up for Shawn, but Shawn Johnson is a worldwide star right now. 15 hours of prime time exposure in the most watched sport in the Olympics coupled with charm, grace and a million watt smile = Leno, Letterman, and the Democratic Convention. (By the way, Shawn is 16. She was not making a political statement. Her agent, Sheryl Shade, told me a week ago, Shawn would be equally honored to lead the Pledge at the Republican Convention, if asked. She wasn't asked.)
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention what an honor it was to host Shawn's homecoming. I was stunned by the size of the crowd, though not as surprised as Shawn ("I don't understand why all these people would come to see me?"). My favorite part of the day was sitting back in the green room with Shawn and her parents and hearing the wide-eyed stories of all that they'd seen and experienced in Beijing. I'm also happy to report that anytime Shawn had to meet someone, especially a kid, she couldn't have been more gracious, or tried harder to make it a memorable experience.
The Nadas came by and asked Shawn if they could have a picture with her, to which she immediately replied, "Can I have a picture with you?". I can't imagine being that talented and famous at 16, but I think she handles it very well. Certainly better than I would have. Her parents have done a great job. Chow too.
I really appreciate all the people who helped organize and put on an event with next to no budget. It gives me more pride in the community and faith in people.
I thought about asking Andy to take the stage as Bela Karolyi that night. I decided it would take the spotlight off Shawn, which is where it belonged, but gosh it would have been funny. I still laugh when I watch that. I have no idea how Andy keeps a straight face. Liang Chow says he laughed so hard he couldn't breathe. (Good place to thank Shawn Terrell and Chris Hassel for editing the videos of Shawn Johnson that fired the crowd up beyond anything Andy and I could have done.)
Speaking of Hassel, he practically pushed Jenny and me into Tropic Thunder. I couldn't wait. I did laugh really hard several times, but overall I was disappointed. It's 30 minutes of over the top, crude foolishness stretched to 100 minutes, but it was worth it for the belly laughs, Robert Downey Junior and Tom Cruise. I saw it with my mom & dad too. The movie earns the R rating and then some. That could have had an effect on my enjoyment too. Even at 44, they're still my parents, and I still get embarrassed when one of the actors promotes the energy drink, Booty Sweat.
Tropic Thunder is the greatest movie of all time compared to The Clone Wars. Will someone please make George Lucas stop before we all forget how great he once was. At least the kids thought it was okay. I was counting seats in the theater to pass the time.
This is the best Cubs team I've ever seen. Cubs fans should worry anyway. The best team doesn't always win the World Series. Not these days. Not with all the rounds in the playoffs.
The NFL on NBC cranks up this week, so it's hard to know when SoundOff will start. We'll have an abbreviated newscast, 10 minutes, and then we'll get it going. Most of you who read this watch the show, and I want to thank you. Overall, more people have watched this year than ever before. We sincerely appreciate it.