I am an optimist.
Well, that may not be totally true. I suppose that generally I’m an optimist unless I’m driving or trying to rent a car. There, that’s right. Being an optimist and a sports fan from Chicago who attended the University of Iowa who moonlights as a blogger/podcaster is tough. Some would say too tough. After all, my life does consist of horribly bad quarterback play (Bears), conservative-to-sometimes-boring play calling (Hawkeyes), bad front office management (Bulls), a rebuilding second fiddle franchise in a Cubs town (White Sox) and trolls. So. Many. Trolls.
So in a world full of pessimism, pre-season dread, Deadspin articles about why everyone sucks, Fox Sports Afternoon programming and our own Matt Cabel writing off the Iowa QB situation, I’m here to do one thing and one thing only: beat you over the head with kindness, overwhelming positivity and magic.
Let’s make some lemonade, shall we?
I’m not sure if you all saw this or not (If you haven’t what HAVE you been doing?), but The Pants did an extensive dive into the players that will be starting at each position group the past several weeks (you can find them all right here). For those of you who did and did not take a gander at those previews, here is a little snippet of what we get to enjoy on a regular basis starting September 2nd against Wyoming:
- Akrum Wadley. Ever heard of him? Well, he’s back and he looks destined to outdo the jaw dropping performance he put on full display last year (insert Kevin McCallister Ghost emoji). Joining Wadley is your favorite player’s favorite teammate in James Butler (who unfortunately was not mentioned in the RB preview because apparently the 4th of July is a time for both family and Hawkeye news. Instead, you can read JPinIC and I gush over him here.). That’s not just one, but two 1000-yard rushers in the Iowa backfield (again) running behind a superior offensive line (again) with a new offensive coordinator that understands the importance of not being Greg Davis.
- Speaking of the offensive line, keep a watchful eye on this unit. Not only are they contenders to repeat as Joe Moore Award winners in 2017, but under the new tutelage of Tim Polasek and his wife’s cooking, they have a legit chance at becoming even better than they were last year. It’s easy to understand why when you look at the total picture. Iowa returns all but eight starts from last year’s unit with three players starting for the third season in a row. Two final recommendations: Set your Google reminders up for Tristan Wirfs and enjoy James Daniels every chance you get. He just might go down as one of the best to do it at center.
- Josey Jewell is still The Outlaw and an AP Preseason First Team All-American. He will be the captain of a defensive front seven that I believe is extremely underrated going into the season.
- There are freshmen of both the “true” and “redshirt” variety all over this roster that could be impact players this season. No, seriously. Iowa has talented, ready-to-play “freshmen.” AJ Espenesa and Wirfs look like they’re going into their junior season already (there’s proof in the Chris Ruth pudding):
We have never mic'd the freshman before. These guys did a great job! Look forward to seeing them grow with the Coaches and upper classmen https://t.co/MOUnbwrGk9— Chris Ruth (@ChrisRuthIOWA) August 16, 2017
Alaric Jackson is one of my favorite offensive lineman on this team, and if the coaching staff isn’t thrilled with how the Hawkeyes current stable of glorified “tackles-who-really-should-be-guards” are pass protecting, they have two major (yet young) players ready and seemingly able to step in.
Oh, and don’t forget about Brandon Smith, Max Cooper, Ivory Kelly-Martin and Ihmir Smith-Marsette who have each had their fair share of hype floating around the internets.
- Noah Fant. Enough said.
The Storylines I’m excited to see unfold (Both real and made up)
Storyline #1: Brian Ferentz doesn’t care about your titles or your school name
There is probably nothing in my life outside of my marriage that I believe in more than Brian Ferentz. He is the hero we all needed in a “GD” of a time (Get it?). Not only did he step in to be the offensive hero we all needed AND deserved, but almost immediately made little brother feel inadequate for his misuse of, er, proper titles and their propensity to shell out scholarships to anyone that is able to run a 40. He then called out P.J. Fleck for the same thing (while also referring to him as just another “guy” in a city). He also decided to use that opportunity to take a dump all over Mike Riley and Nebraska’s “NFL Pipeline” recruiting pitch that the Hawkeye coaching staff run into.
September 9th, October 28th, and November 24th are already circled on my calendar.
Storyline #2: Can Kirk Ferentz end Penn State’s streak at home (probably) under the lights?
Penn State embarrassed Iowa last year. They embarrassed them so badly that I honestly debated not watching the Michigan game the following week in favor of attending one of the last weekends at Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival. That was Penn State’s third straight win against the Hawkeyes, and its second straight ass-kicking.
There is no way that Ferentz, INC. doesn’t think about revenge on a daily basis, right? I mean how could you not? I’m just some slightly overweight blogger and I think about avenging that loss for all of Hawkeye Nation on a daily basis. That game was brutal. A total abomination. A football desecration. And I, nor the rest of this football team will stand for it.
So, I imagine, that on September 23 at Kinnick Stadium and under the lights, we will get one of the best performances of the year against what is expected to be a Big Ten Contender.
Storyline #3: Will Kirk Ferentz Penn State Mark Dantonio?
Kirk Ferentz hates Mark Dantonio. It’s no secret. It’s also not a secret that Mark Dantonio didn’t have a great season last year. Hell, he hasn’t even had that great of an offseason, either. Could he be on the hot seat?
I suppose that’s for those guys on Fox Sports to yell about. But I can’t wait to see if KF does everything he can to try to make it hurt even more.
Storyline #4: How much will KF and BF hate P.J. Fleck?
I don’t have much to add to this question except that I can’t wait for the Goofer-week press conferences.
An optimist gambling is ultimately a sucker, but if you’re not doing it, you’re doing football season wrong.
As of this writing, Iowa’s regular season win total is set at seven wins. SEVEN! I’ve thought about this for a very, very long time and I’ve come to the conclusion that there are six games on the Hawkeyes schedule that I am safely putting in the bank (Wyoming, that team in Ames, North Texas, Michigan State, Illinois, and Purdue). That means Iowa needs to find a way to win two of its 50/50 games against Penn State, jNW (I hate that I can never automatically assume this will be a win), that team in Minneapolis, Wisconsin and that school a little west of Omaha.
If you’re with me and think eight wins is virtually a lock, you can get +110 odds if you pound the over right now.
Now, if you want to have even more fun, Iowa is currently +580 to win the Big Ten West and +2300 to win the Big Ten Championship. I’m not saying either is going to happen, but if you skip a few Chick-Fil-A lunches, you could have the chance of winning $5,800 and/or $23,000 on top of the $110 I won you earlier.
This probably says more about me than anything I’ve ever written on this site before, but hell, you’re watching these games and rooting for them to win anyways. Why not have a little somethin’ somethin’ on the line to add to the fun?
Not sold? Let me ask you this then: Is there anything more true in the Kirk Ferentz era than Iowa’s success in season’s when it isn’t being talked about as a player in the Big Ten? Sure, we have a baby for a quarterback and unproven talent at wide receiver, buuuuuuuuuut, that’s about it! Outside of a few teams in the East Division (who all have to play each other for their one spot to Indy) who doesn’t have glaring holes like these? The last I checked, Wisconsin’s quarterback throws the football like Mike Glennon and Ned Flanders is still the coach of Nebraska and then there’s what? The Fleck-tones?
ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!
So, like I was saying...how does the lemonade taste? Good, right?