Well, we find ourselves staring another Monday in the teeth. This week I have mixed emotions. Iowa Football didn’t lose. In fact, they find themselves in another January bowl game. Iowa Basketball did lose. Badly. To Nebraska-Omaha. Who woulda thought a month ago that I’d be sitting here on the first Monday in December grinning from ear to ear thinking about the football team and doing everything in my power to block out thoughts of the basketball team? College athletics sure are a funny thing.
1. Back to the Outback
At the outset of this season, I think many fans would have been OK with the Outback Bowl, but most were expecting more success. It was obvious the schedule was aligned the way it did last year, but with the talent returning, most had Iowa atop the West with hopes for a return to the Rose Bowl (and a better performance there). A few short weeks in and most of those hopes were crushed courtesy of the Bison from NDSU. After a loss to Northwestern, the disappearance of any offense and an abysmal effort against Penn State, the outlook was bleak. Making a bowl game at all looked like a win. But this team came fighting back. Thankfully, that effort (along with Iowa fans’ reputation for not only travelling, but having a good time when they do) was recognized and rewarded with a return trip to the Outback Bowl. And snatching it from Nebraska after cramming it down their throat on Black Friday makes it all the sweeter.
2. Flashback Monday?
While the trip back to Tampa is a welcome surprise at the end of this season, it may also come with some scars. When the Hawkeyes take on Florida on Monday, January 2nd, it will mark Iowa’s fifth appearance in the bowl. They are 2-2 there historically with both a win and a loss against the Gators. Their last trip to Tampa was a 21-14 loss to a loaded LSU team that included NFL starters Odell Beckham Jr, Jarvis Landry and Jeremy Hill among numerous other NFL players. Iowa last played Florida in the 2006 Outback Bowl. While it has since been updated, the game’s Wikipedia page said everything Hawk fans remember about that one.
Checkout Wikipedia page for the 2006 Outback Bowl. Last time Iowa and Florida played. Don't think the MVP will be in attendance this time. pic.twitter.com/hFWDLWVKJT— Mille® (@IowaHawkGuy) December 4, 2016
I’m sure we will re-live some of those moments a time or two over the next month or so. Here’s to hoping things go a little different this time around.
3. New Kirk Does Bowl Prep
Last year, there was a lot of talk about New Kirk. We saw things we hadn’t really seen out of the staff and fans got their hopes up for permanent changes. This year, we saw a reversion to the mean. There are still glimpses of New Kirk, like going for it on 4th and obvious times to take the points. Although those are countered with kicking on 4th and obviously have to go for its. Regardless of where we are at this point with New and Old Kirk, we are apparently seeing some changes for bowl prep. I suppose when you drop four straight, including back-to-back no-shows, something should probably be different. Sunday, KF announced the team will be taking more of a business trip approach and will be leaving Iowa City later than normal. They will also impose an early curfew and I assume pack lunches and orange slices for all the players. I mean, I don’t think it can get worse, but it just seems like if you want to approach things differently, maybe you gameplan differently? Like, I don’t know, change your base defense to not have a linebacker covering a Heisman candidate in space all day. Luckily, Florida also chooses not to play offense so perhaps the changes will pay off. One thing we know for sure is Iowa has the clear advantage in the kicking game. Actually, I have no idea, but Ron Coluzzi is the bee’s knees so suck it Florida, we will out-punt you.
4. Playoff Problems
So, apparently there are also other bowl games which will be played over the next six weeks or so? Who knew? Primary among them are the playoff games featuring some teams you may have heard of.
I think the committee probably got it right, but it just feels so wrong to have the champion from the conference EVERYONE knows is the best conference sitting on the outside looking in, especially when they’ve already beaten one of the playoff teams. You can make an argument that both Penn State and Michigan had a better resume than Washington, but at the end of the day you just have to find a way not to lose two games
The flip side of that is the committee, and literally every media member last year when Iowa was sitting here undefeated, has talked about the importance of scheduling a tough non-conference. Two of these teams at least tried. And Penn State got punished for it. Meanwhile, Washington is rewarded for basically being Iowa last year, just flipping the conference championship game with another one. Anyone here think Iowa gets in last year if they had lost to #20 Northwestern at home and then beaten MSU in the championship game? That’s basically what Washington did with their loss to #20 USC.
Bottom line, this is Exhibit A for why I’m in favor of an 8-team playoff. Make the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12 (sigh), ACC and Pac 12 champions automatic qualifiers and have 3 at-large bids. In a year like this one, Penn State and Michigan get in with the existing top 4, as does Oklahoma. That last spot gets messy, but throw in Wisconsin (they finished 8th) or USC (many felt they were one of the best 4 teams, even if they didn’t have the resume) or even an undefeated Western Michigan. Discuss.
Speaking of rankings, can I just say WTF? We learned on Sunday that a number of coaches didn’t feel like Iowa was a top 25 team. Notably, Matt Campbell at ISU apparently forgot the 42-3 drubbing his team took from Iowa in week 2. More concerning to me is the utter BS from the CFP committee. Iowa, despite sitting at #21 in the AP and #25 in the Coaches poll, was yet again unranked in the final CFP rankings. I disagree, but at 8-4, whatever. And then I take a look at their Outback bowl opponent. Florida is sitting at 17. Ok, Ok, they just played in the SEC championship game. WHERE THEY GOT DESTROYED 54-16. Sure they won the SEC East, but that’s like winning the Big 12 North of old or a 7th grade spelling bee. Florida has the same 8-4 record as Iowa. Their non-conference slate included UMASS, North Texas and Florida State (I’ll give you that one). Despite playing an extra game compliments of playing in that disaster of a division, Florida and Iowa played the same number of games against ranked opponents: 4. Iowa went 2-2 with wins over #3 Michigan and #16 Nebraska, losses to #10 Wisconsin and #12 Penn State. Florida, meanwhile, went 1-3 with their lone win coming at #16 LSU. They lost to #1 Bama, #14 Florida State and #14 Tennessee. There is no way you look at that and see them as 8+ spots better than Iowa. And these are the people deciding who gets to play for a championship.
6. Defense Optional
While I’m feeling the rage, let’s look at the basketball team. OH SWEET JESUS WHAT ARE THEY DOING IN CARVER???? When things were headed south in the middle of the football season, I told anyone who would listen I was excited to get to hoops season. The team is young, it’s talented and they’re fun to watch. We all knew there would be some bumps in the road, but in general they are much more enjoyable to follow than the football team for the middle 2⁄3 of the season. That was then. Now, I can barely stomach watching that sorry excuse of a defense run around lost for 40 minutes. This squad can flat out score. Jok is the most prolific scorer we’ve seen at Iowa in a long time. Freshman Cordell Pemsl looks like a savvy veteran who doesn’t play above the rim but gets his buckets any time he wants. Fellow freshman Jordan Bohannon is shooting lights out from beyond the arc. And Tyler Cook is living up to the hype of being the best freshman Fran has ever coached. But NONE of them, or anyone else on this roster, seems capable or to even care about playing defense. 98. That’s the number of points they gave up to the University of Nebraska-Omaha on Saturday. Just utterly ridiculous. With this offense, if they play anything close to defense for even 5 minutes each half, they destroy a team like UNO and probably avoid the four-game skid they find themselves in en route to their 3-5 record and dead last ranking in the conference. Just. Play. Defense. A little.
7. That’s Punting
It should now be obvious that I love me some Ron Coluzzi. In a world full of bland interviews, continued “that’s football” and straight faces, Ron Coluzzi is gold.
Guy gets me. He’s also a hell of a punter, this incident not withstanding.
The most athletic moment of this Iowa punter's life pic.twitter.com/cS8csEBLFI— SB Nation GIF (@SBNationGIF) November 13, 2016
But again, he gets it.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the awesomeness that is Iowa punter Ron Coluzzi: pic.twitter.com/Sh4hpzCagY— Scott Westerberg (@ScottWesterberg) November 15, 2016
On Sunday, I think I found my NFL Coluzzi substitute. Oakland’s Marquette King is everything I want out of a guy who’s job is to be totally unnoticed and stay out of the way of the football players.
Punter gets roughed, taunting penalty with the ref's flag pic.twitter.com/UjKiUM9XxI— Pick Six Previews (@PickSixPreviews) December 5, 2016
This ain’t his first rodeo.
With the expectations set on the Iowa-Florida Outback Bowl, time to study up on your punters, folks. Happy Monday. Go Hawks!