IOWA CITY, IA - NOVEMBER 12: Marvin McNutt, Jr. #7 of the Iowa Hawkeyes is pursued by Marcus Rush. We will miss this man. (Photo by Reese Strickland/Getty Images)
Sure, Iowa just lost to Michigan State, 37-21. But how much do we really know? What was so important about losing to Michigan State? What does it all mean, Basil? The Takeaway has the answer.
And that just happened. It's hard to take a whole lot away from a game where Iowa craps the bed on a grander scale than at any other point in the season. Sure, it was going to be a tall task to beat Michigan State, and I don't want to give the impression that the Spartans didn't earn the victory; clearly, they did. It's just... what's there to take from a game where Iowa's -3 in turnovers and all three had a major effect on the scoreboard? That the Hawkeyes shouldn't turn the ball over three times? Of course they shouldn't. That the Hawkeye defense needs to do a better job at keeping the opposing team out of the end zone with a short field? Clearly, yes, but good luck making demands like that, you know? The point is, the turnover margin was both Michigan State's best and Iowa's worst of the year, and every now and then, those games are going to happen.
Unless y'all want me to blame Ken O'Keefe for Jordan Bernstine fumbling the kickoff, anyway. We might be able to pull that argument off. Maybe.
Marvin McNutt is the best player on this team. No offense to Derrell Johnson-Koulianos (or as the Iowa athletic department thinks of him, "unidentified scholarship athlete"), but it's been since the days of TIm Dwight that the best Iowa player was a wideout. And unlike the Dwight era, Iowa is actually doing a phenomenal job of trying to get the ball in that superstar WR's hands as often as possible. After taking end-arounds in the previous two games -- normally a sure sign that Ferentz would abandon such high-risk nonsense -- McNutt actually got two such carries this week, taking both for high-reward gains, leading one to believe that Ferentz should be doing this 2-3 times a game. He also caught eight passes for 130 yards and a score, most notably an absurd one-handed grab for a first down in the second half. For exclusive video of McNutt's one-handed domination, check out this highlight reel. What? No? Okay, that video would have been funnier if Iowa would have won. Here's the correct highlight.
Fine, it's this one.
OK, it's really this one.
I've probably violated your trust to the point that you don't believe whatever I tell you the next video I'm about to link is, but I promise that this one really is the highlight.
Anyway, it's clearly en vogue -- and has been so for the last 10 years -- to criticize Ken O'Keefe for his conservative play-calling and inability to maximize the abilities of Iowa's playmakers to get the ball in the end zone. And yet, the two most productive wideouts in Iowa career history have just come in the last five years, having been Ken O'Keefe subjects the entire time. It's debatable whether you think DJK and McNutt were objectively better than Danan Hughes or Tim Dwight. If you think he wasn't, though, then consider DJK and McNutt's career numbers being better than both those other guys; if KOK's the offensive equivalent of Lenny from Of Mice and Men, what does that say about St. Hayden Fry and his prize WRs' inferior numbers? Hmmmmmmmmm?
If you run between the tackles on Iowa, congratulations; you win! One of the most striking contrasts between the loss at Minnesota and the win at Michigan was how Minnesota, for its objective talent disparity with Iowa across the board, just decided to run between the tackles and dare Iowa to stop it in the second half... and how Michigan refused to do the same. One look at the rushing stats and final scores of both games should tell you how Michigan's decision to get cute and slow with the running game worked out.
Fortunately for Michigan State (and quite unfortunately for us), the Spartans recognized that it's really not that hard to gouge Iowa up the middle, and as a result, MSU -- the worst rushing team in the Big Ten both overall in and conference play -- utterly owned Iowa at the point of attack and racked up its best rushing numbers since the Michigan game. And really, MSU's rushing stats (155 yards, 1 TD) would have been even worse, but Kirk Cousins decided to shred Iowa's secondary instead. C'est la vie when your defense le sucks, I guess.
BUT NOW THE HATRED. All analysis aside, it seems abundantly clear that Iowa was looking ahead to Purdue, who is Iowa's Most Hated Rival for ever and ever, according to Big Ten doctrine. Iowa must travel to West Lafayette with a key seventh win on the line this week, and Purdue would like nothing more than to
not be in West Lafayette spoil iowa's chances. This is a trap game extraordinaire, and if Iowa just pulls a handwank and coasts into the game, it'll lose; just ask Ohio State, who made precisely that mistake this week and caught a 26-23 OT loss to show for it.
But Iowa won't let that happen; we hate Purdue too much. Always have, always will.