This week on SpoCo the boys and I started the show with a much needed release. We let out all of our frustrations, offered zero solutions as to how Iowa will correct the many, many issues we pointed out, and STILL, somehow convinced ourselves at the end of the show that Iowa will win out and take the Big Ten West as their own.
Thus is life as an Iowa fanboy.
With little to no evidence outside of “we have an elite defense with an elite defensive coordinator”, I still stand by it. After all, these overreactions come after Iowa lost two back-to-back games against two of the three ELITE teams in the Big Ten East that came by 12 total points. Sure, the offense was non-existent and they had horrid interior offensive line play and together they routinely moved the ball only to shoot themselves in the foot.
But... this thing isn’t over. Not even by a long shot.
All of you might have left the “Big Ten West Champions” Luxury Suite we were all inhabiting. But guess what?
I’M NOT EFFING LEAVIN’!
I still believe that Nate Stanley is a good college quarterback. I’ve tempered my NFL expectations, but despite the last two weeks, he is 100% a guy Iowa can win because of (and can surely win with). But like all quarterbacks at all levels, when you consistently hit them in the mouth, bad things start to happen. Why do you think we hear the same thing every February when talking heads try to figure out how to beat Tom Brady in the Super Bowl?
“You have to hit him the mouth, Boom!”
“You need to pressure him right in the face, Teej!”
That happened the last two weeks. Iowa failed to capitalize against speedy, over aggressive defenses. That’s on the OC. That’s also on the line and the line coach/head coach.
I don’t know enough about Brian Ferentz yet, but when you look at the history of Iowa’s offensive guard play under Kirk Ferentz (and take into consideration Brian Ferentz’s quote about offensive guards being “just a guy” and that “...guards are a dime a dozen. I can go down to Kum and Go and find two guards”), it’s hard for me not to assume that they find the answers as soon as this week. Even if that means Kirk takes over coaching that group from Tim Polasek (if he is part of the problem, which everyone seems to assume now right or wrong), I have to believe it’s going to click for these young bucks at some point in the next two games against a down trodden Purdue team and the worst Northwestern team we’ve seen in a long, long time.
And with a more solidified interior, things get back on track for the offense. It has to.
Maybe I am just the eternal optimist, but the next two weeks are confidence builders and boosters. Brian needs to get everyone feeling good about themselves again on the offensive side of the ball. He needs to get Nate in a rhythm again. He needs to find traction on the interior of the offensive line or figure out an offensive system that will help alleviate that pressure (jumbo jumbo?). He needs to get the run game churning. He needs to put up 30+ points in both of these games.
And his father needs to find a new punt returner that catches the ball.
If Iowa can do those things, while giving the defense some much needed rest the next two weeks, who’s not to say that “Kirk’s Luck” doesn’t shift back in our favor against Wisconsin? We all saw what Northwestern was able to do against them a few weeks ago. You mean to tell me that Iowa is going to be able to hold Michigan and Penn State to 27-points combined and not keep Wisconsin (and the Big Ten West Division) within reach?
That’s what Kirk has to be preaching to his guys right now. This team has every chance to still be Big Ten West Champions. Wisconsin doesn’t have some cake walk ahead of them. They still have to go to Ohio State (probable loss), play Iowa at home (Nobody believes in us game?), head to Nebraska (meh, but ehhhhh?) and go to Minnesota to end the season (AXE GAME!).
It’s not terribly hard... but it’s also not terribly easy either.
But right now, it’s not about Wisconsin. It’s about what Iowa can control. And they only need to look back a few years to find their motivation.
Why can’t Iowa be the 2019 version of the 2016 Badgers? For those that don’t remember what happened that year, the soon to be Big Ten West Champions lost to No. 4 Michigan and No. 2 Ohio State in back-to-back weeks by 14-combined points at basically the same juncture of their schedule as Iowa is right now before turning it on and going on a winning streak including a big time win over No. 7 Nebraska in OT (the Huskers first loss of the season) to lock up the division.
Taking these last two games and using them as a launching pad towards a 10-2 record and a Big Ten West Championship with the schedule that remains is surely still in the cards.
THEY CAN STILL DO THIS!
I know Wisconsin looks dominant. They are damn impressive. I tried to hate early on, but I can’t anymore. But Iowa is not out of this thing yet. College football in the Big Ten gets weird deep into October and Iowa just went through the most diversity their going to face this season the past two weeks. At the end of the day, there is too much integrity, talent and pride on this team for them to book their tickets to the Holiday Bowl and be satisfied with 8-wins. Not with Wisconsin, an undefeated Minnesota and Nebraska still left on the schedule.
Six games remain and there’s no better time than now to give up the “win the close games” mantra that has failed KF the last two weeks and just go out there and beat their opponents into a pulp on both sides of the football. BE MORE BELICHICK. BE MORE 2016 WISCONSIN. Take out every single frustration that has built up out on Purdue and Northwestern. Bobby Boucher them up and down the field and make them hate playing football.
Then go to Wisconsin and slay your twin brother.
The pressure that came with the start of the season is now gone.
You’re now the forgotten...make them remember.
My Big Ten picks against the spread in bold:
Ohio State -27.5 @ Northwestern
Purdue @ Iowa -17.5
Wisconsin -31 @ Illinois
Indiana -6 @ Maryland
Minnesota -28.5 @ Rutgers
Michigan @ Penn State -9