For the last decade or so, Iowa football has been incredibly polarizing. That sounds like a ridiculous statement on its surface when discussing a program most people outside the Big Ten rarely think about and is most known for being as bland, plain vanilla as you’ll find across the country. But within its own fanbase, Iowa football is polarizing.
With each passing year since that great run in 2009-2010, the fanbase drifts further and further into two distinct camps. On the one side, you’ve got a growing faction of fans who have grown tired of Kirk Ferentz. On the other side you’ve got faction most concerned with defending Ferentz against the other group.
The individual reasons for members of each side vary from person to person. In the “time for a change” camp, there’s a solid mixture of fans who think this program should be better than 8-4 with a bowl win every year, those that simply want something newer and more exciting, those that think it’s not just the need for new and more exciting, but that the current mindset is actually holding the program back, and those that genuinely believe it couldn’t be worse than it is right now.
On the other side, you’ve got the “apologists” camp. This group is some mixture of those that think 8-4 is great for this program, those that think the mindset of the current staff is the only thing keeping us from being Illinois (well, at least they can beat a Wisconsin!), and those that care as much about the way the program is run as the fact that it’s successful.
The issue isn’t whether one camp is right or wrong. Both sides are right, and wrong. The issue is that Iowa fans, rather than genuinely cheering for the team they love, are at a point where we’re more concerned with defending our position on Ferentz and tearing down ““the other side”.
The fanbase is polarized.
It’s polarized to the point where most of us are so concerned with the minutia of what did and didn’t go right in any given week and what’s been said by whom on social media to notice the situation we’re in. Despite a team that’s been on a roller coaster of a season thus far, the Hawkeyes are once again a top-20 team in the nation. They’re 5-2 at a point in the season when most fans would have predicted they be either 4-3 or 5-2. They haven’t seen the season squandered and they aren’t totally derailed.
Quite the contrary. This is an Iowa team that now has an opportunity to still win the Big Ten West. They don’t technically control their own fate as Minnesota is still undefeated, but anyone buying that the Gophers finish with fewer than 3 losses this year is holding a paddle. Minnesota still has to take on Iowa, Penn State and Wisconsin. For their part, Wisconsin now has a loss to Illinois, a road date with Ohio State and a showdown with the Hawkeyes on November 9th.
Iowa isn’t going undefeated as they did four seasons ago, but every realistic goal the team had and certainly any reasonable expectation Hawkeye fans had before the season is very much in play.
We are witnessing one of the great Iowa defenses. They aren’t creating a ton of turnovers and they aren’t racking up sacks, but they are stingy. They’re bending but rarely breaking and they’re building on each game.
The offense has problems. That’s nothing new. This program is built on an offense that can eat clock, avoid costly turnovers and grind out wins. When the Hawkeyes have avoided the turnovers, they’ve done just that. And they’re quietly making adjustments.
We know there are major issues in the middle of the offensive line. With a freshman center, we should have seen that coming. But Tyler Linderbaum is a future star and despite what you believe about Brian Ferentz, the tape says he’s making adjustments to help out the middle of this line.
Despite the struggles in the run game and some seriously frustrating throws, Nate Stanley is currently leading the Big Ten in passing yards. He’s as polarizing as Ferentz at the moment, but he’s leaving town as a record-holder and this team is going to ride him win or lose.
B1G passing leaders after Week 8 (yards):— Dustin Schutte (@SchutteCFB) October 20, 2019
N. Stanley, Iowa: 1,771
S. Clifford, Penn St.: 1,742
T. Morgan, Minnesota: 1,623
B. Lewerke, Mich. St.: 1,596
S. Patterson, Michigan: 1,522
Despite the frustrations, more often than not that’s been win. And whether your team fire Ferentz or an apologist, it’s time to enjoy the ride of being an Iowa fan. Sure it likely means we see another 8-4 season (I’m standing by my 9-3 call with 10-2 upside), but Vegas said we wouldn’t get there and being upset that we beat expectations is just plain silly.
Being a fan is about rooting for your team, even when they lose, because you love them. You may not know why you love them and damnit it’s hard to go on loving them some of the time, but deep down you do. We all do.
Whether we’re defending the coaching staff or wishing for a new one, we all want the team and the program to be successful. Our definitions of what that means will likely differ, but we should all be able to agree this can still be a successful season with some offensive adjustments and some defensive opportunities.