Preview 2017: Iowa, Please Be Better This Bowl Season
Iowa’s been terrific over the last few seasons, but it all keeps ending with a thud.
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How are we supposed to take you seriously, Iowa?
On behalf of a desperate and frightened nation, Iowa, can you at least give us a decent bowl game again?
All throughout the amazing run in 2015 to the Big Ten Championship Game, Iowa fans kept begging and pleading for the world to give their unbeaten team respect. As the College Football Playoff process went on, and as the wins kept piling up, it all seemed like a mirage, but it didn’t matter. The Hawkeyes kept on winning.
It took a brilliant B1G title game and a one-stop-away-from-winning loss to Michigan State to actually get the praise that, yeah, the team really was that good.
And then Christian McCaffrey cranked up a bajillion yards in what turned into one of the worst Rose Bowls of all-time – a 45-16 Stanford win that wasn’t even that close.
Last year’s team couldn’t recreate the same magic, but just when it seemed like the year was about to go into the tank … boom. The Iowa defense pitched a gem in the 14-13 CFP-chase-changing win over Michigan, followed up by blowouts over Illinois and Nebraska to close out the season.
And then Florida’s defense made the 2016 Rose Bowl look like the 2017 Rose Bowl with a gut-punching performance for a 30-3 Outback Bowl win.
Iowa keeps playing well enough to get strong bowl invites – helped by games like that Michigan win last year and the Wisconsin upset in 2015 – and then some really good team with time to rest and prepare steps up and applies the type of atomic wedgie that emboldens the insipid too-many-bowls crowd.
This year’s Iowa team is the on the exact same path. You know exactly what you’re about to get.
The linebacking corps will be among the most effective in the Big Ten, and the defense overall will be strong enough to make up for another offense that will run well behind an outstanding line, but will make throwing the ball as painful as whatever YouTube video your kid is currently watching.
It’s Iowa. It’ll come up with a few big moments here and there to get to eight wins on the low side and ten if everything breaks right, and then be off to some restaurant quality bowl game and …
C’mon, Kirk Ferentz. Crank out another one of those amazing seasons you’re able to shock the world with once in a while.
The college football world needs more people like Ferentz to succeed. One of the great guys in the business, he’s been the right blend of consistent success on the field, and pitch-perfect charm off of it, as the exact type of guy you want going into his 19th year of running your football program.
The schedule is tough, but it was nasty in 2015, too, and Ferentz and the Hawkeyes found a way to get through it.
The talent isn’t there compared to other top Big Ten programs, but the talent has never been there compared to other top Big Ten programs.
That’s all okay as Iowa continues to be the find-a-way team that keeps getting the job done, but it can’t be so outclassed like it’s been in the bowl seasons. It can’t hit that brick wall where absolutely nothing works once it goes against the strong teams that have the talent and the ability to have gotten through rough schedules, too.
The potential is still there to do special things. The Big Ten West isn’t unmanageable, the fundamentals of the Hawkeyes are still strong enough to beat a Wisconsin on the road and pull off the timely wins needed to be deep in the title chase in November. And it’s still good enough to be playing football around New Year’s Day.
Under Ferentz, this is still an easy program, team and coach to root for.
But Iowa, just don’t make us hate you again at some point in late December or early January.