While You Were Out. Lost in the kerfuffle following Iowa's Orange Bowl victory over Georgia Tech (I'm going to type that as many times as I can over the next 8 months) was the most recent loss by Todd Lickliter's basketball team, this time a 17-point defeat at the hands of Illinois. Again, the score was deceptively close; the Hawks went on one of their patented 8-minute scoring droughts early, falling behind 22-4 despite Illinois missing 7 of its first 8 shots; Bawinkel apparently looked at his misfiring Illinois counterparts like Kaiser Soze looked at the Romanians, then showed these men of bad shooting what bad shooting really is. But hey, they won the rest of the game by a point WOO GET OUT THE JUNIOR SENIOR!
Lickliter (who is now dressing like he's performing a set at HaHa's in Cleveland and, according to Joe, looks like he has no idea what is happening) is Barta's lone high-profile hire, and will be given a long leash. Merely losing this season isn't going to cost him his job; this is a young team, and everyone agrees his incoming recruiting class will be a big step up in talent. The only way that Lickliter can land on the hot seat is if his team is completely uncompetitive in the conference. Of course, Iowa has now played three Big Ten games, lost all three, and been blown out of the gym in two (including their own gym in one). Barta will stand by losing, but he can't stand by embarrassment, and as fans flee Carver Hawkeye Arena like it's a crime scene, he's running out of people to stand with. I hate to say it -- he seems like a truly good man doing his best in a terrible situation -- but Lickliter's job is now in real jeopardy, and only an unlikely couple of wins can save him.
In the aftermath, writes John Bohnenkamp, Iowa is looking for toughness:
Illinois, Lickliter said, determined where to catch the ball on offense, where to keep Iowa from catching the ball on defense.
So did Purdue. So did Minnesota. So did Iowa State and Northern Iowa this season. So did Texas.
In all of those games, the Hawkeyes played well enough at moments, but not tough enough when it counted.
Given this team propensity to ignore defense and the way in which it has been manhandled on the glass since conference play began (to say nothing of its starting center, who won't deign to make contact with an opponent, especially not when setting a screen), "toughness" is as good a place to start the rebuild as any. Next up is Michigan State (4:35 Saturday), which is good because Tom Izzo teams are always soft...
I Would Make a Joke, but Nothing Rhymes with "Orange." In the aftermath of Iowa's season-ending win in Tuesday night's Orange Bowl victory over Georgia Tech (I warned you), writers are going to their usual smorgasboard of storylines. Some go with puns (I understand Hlas -- he just seems like someone who enjoys a clever turn of phrase -- but Morehouse?) Don Doxsie is asking what it all means while accidentally revealing his lack of interest in the defensive depth chart (Don, at no point was Jordan Bernstine considered the likely starting cornerback, aside from during Prater's suspension). There is the obligatory look-ahead to 2010, where the big holes will be on the offensive line and in the linebacker corps. And, of course, there is HIN-TON:
[T]he point is that no one looked particularly in sync against Iowa all year, even when it seemed like the Hawkeyes were still groping for some traction of their own. Tonight may be the closest they came to a real "knockout" game against a good team, which isn't saying much. But it's very possible that Stanzi's absence against Northwestern and Ohio State could have spelled the different between the 11-2 finish the Hawkeyes earned tonight and a perfect regular season. As it stands, an injury-plagued, drama-filled 2009 may have been Kirk Ferentz's best coaching job, and this bunch has more than earned its place alongside the top-10 teams from 2002, 1991 and 1985 as the best Iowa outfits of the last 50 years.
Doc Sat hits it out of the park, as the king of college football prose is wont to do, in this simple summary of the Orange Bowl: This win was essentially identical to every other Iowa victory this season. Nothing, save maybe for Clayborn and an especially good night for the offensive line, stands out, but the combined output was strangely dominant. Iowa slowly suffocated Georgia Tech until, in its death throes (no pun intended, I swear), the Wramblin' Wreck lashed out and got caught.
A Whale of an Announcement (See what I did there?) Now-former Hawkeye offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga has issued the obligatory statement regarding his decision to leave early for the NFL draft. It's less about the millions of dollars awaiting him as a first-round draft pick and more about fear of becoming a beached whale:
"This was not an easy decision since my Iowa experience has been very positive and rewarding," Bulaga said in a statement released through the school. "The illness I was faced with at the beginning of the 2009 season made me realize how important football is in my life, and how quickly it can be taken away. I want to thank coach [Kirk] Ferentz, coach [Reese] Morgan and the rest of the Iowa football staff who played a significant role in my development."
Bulaga is set to be one of the first tackles off the board, despite not yet being old enough to buy a beer. Leaving now gives him the best chance at a long, sustainable career at the next level. It was the smart decision for any number of reasons.
- Orange Bowl television ratings were as meh as expected, though the game did outperform last year's contest (Cincinnati-Virginia Tech) by a wide margin and win the night among all key male demographics.
- Brian Cook is asking for Leman-Stanzi campaign posters. More on this later, but we have a leader in the clubhouse (T/F/J to @emericle).
- Say what you will about Jay Paterno, but he's plugged in enough to know that criticism of Penn State's scheduling hurt them during bowl selection this season. The argument for Penn State's brutal 2010 schedule is already beginning.
- Hitler is back, and he's not happy about Northwestern's decision to run a fake field goal during overtime against Auburn.
- The greatest wrestler ever returns to TNA. And I'm not talking about Hulk Hogan.