When I was a kid, my family often made the drive from Tampa to Gainesville to visit family friends. My brother and I usually shared a pull out couch in a small side room. That room had a tall bookshelf on it, full of classics you'd be assigned in a high school English course. I never read any of them on those visits. I always chose a collection of Spy vs. Spy.
Reading these comics in the early 1990s without any historical context, I never picked up on the political satire. Black Spy and White Spy plotting against each other simply read like two Wile E. Coyotes trying to catch one another. Neither one is the protagonist; neither one is smarter or better or more virtuous than the other. Spy vs. Spy is an ongoing story of futility, two bighorn sheep ramming each other over and over. It is also the perfect metaphor for the Iowa-Iowa State rivalry, because ¡El Assico! is college football's greatest running stalemate.
30 points doesn't seem like a lot to ask from a football game; even a relatively tame final score like 17-13 or 20-14 gets you there. Last season, all but 13 FBS teams averaged at least 20 points a game, and those 13 averaged 11 or more, which meant getting over the 29 point hump was nearly guaranteed. Go back to 1984 and the numbers drop, but you still had 98 teams averaging 15 plus points per game.
This is a chart of how many times a handful of rivalry games have ended with the teams scoring fewer than 30 points combined.
Not a great look for ¡El Assico!, but it's sandwiched between two of the biggest rivalries in the sport, which have each had major championship implications in years past. Are we making too much of a small thing? Not if you change the range to the last decade.
The low-scoring rivalry game is dying everywhere, except when Iowa and Iowa State play one another. Three seasons ago, this game finished with a final score of Iowa State 9, Iowa 6. That was the only game in 2012 in which two power conference teams played each other and neither scored 10 points. There were no such games in 2013, and there was only one in 2014. It was this.
¡El Assico! is a boxing movie where no punches land. It is a crime novel where the murderer confesses for no reason but the investigator is daydreaming and doesn't hear it. ¡El Assico! is Imperial stormtroopers shooting at other Imperial stormtroopers. If you'd care to learn more about this storied rivalry, Spencer and I put together a thorough explainer just for you.