This season, like so many for Hawkeye fans, has been up and down. Up in the sense that Iowa is ahead of schedule in terms of pre-season expectations from national pundits and Vegas oddsmakers. Down in the sense that the Hawkeyes’ offense has largely stalled out, especially against ranked opponents, leading to three losses against Big Ten teams and dreams of a return to Indianapolis crushed.
It’s become a familiar feeling in Iowa City, excitement dampened by the cloud of missed opportunities hanging overhead. This season it was losses at #19 Michigan and #13 Wisconsin, as well as at home to #10 Penn State. A year ago, it was a road loss to #17 Penn State and home losses to unranked Wisconsin and Purdue. In 2017, it was a home loss to #4 Penn State and Purdue as well as road losses to #6 Wisconsin and Michigan State and Northwestern and on and on and on.
Every year, we see flashes of home from this program only to have our dreams crushed. Even in 2015, a magical season where the Hawkeyes defies all odds to finish undefeated in the regular season, we watched in disbelief as Michigan State rammed the ball down Iowa’s throat for 9 minutes to end our hopes of a College Football Playoff run. It is always and forever the same.
And yet we’re here every week riding the same roller coaster. We know the outcome before we even buckle up to start the ride, but for some reason we spend half the ride upset about the number of twists and turns and inversions.
We’re upset the offense isn’t scoring enough points. We can’t get over the fact Nate Stanley still makes boneheaded decisions against top flight defenses. We’re appalled that Brian Ferentz abandons the run, or worse - runs in obvious situations out of brutal personnel groupings. We pull our hair out thinking about blow plays and missed opportunities.
All the while, that roller coaster keeps moving, twisting and turning. The Iowa defense keeps holding opponents well below their season-long average scoring. A.J. Epenesa is still wreaking havoc in opposing backfields. Tyler Goodson is still turning into the future of this backfield before our very eyes. Tyrone Tracy is still becoming a budding star. And Iowa is still wracking up the wins.
November 17, 2019
Despite all the hand-wringing, this team is still one of the best in the entire country. Opposing coaches and the national media, who had pegged Iowa for only 7.5 wins to start the year, agree this is a top-20 team in the country. When the updated College Football Playoff rankings come out tomorrow, this will again be a top-20 team and will be trending closer to top-15 with each passing week.
The trophy room is home to the Cy-Hawk Trophy and Floyd of Rosedale for the fifth consecutive year. In a few weeks, it’s (fairly) likely it will be home to the Heroes Trophy for the fifth straight year as well. Yes, the Heartland is in Madison for the fourth straight year and yes, Iowa will be on the sidelines while Wisconsin is inevitably back in Indianapolis, but that is entirely the point.
All of our minds went there. Nobody can think through the success of this season without letting them be thoroughly overshadowed by the shortcomings. It’s time to wake up and smell the bacon. Enjoy the ride. This team isn’t winning the West. They aren’t headed to the Rose Bowl. They aren’t lighting the world on fire.
But it’s a damn good team full of players who want those things more than we could ever dream. They’re working their asses off to achieve those goals. And at the end of the day, they are exceeding expectations. They have a very real chance at finishing this year 9-3 with all three losses coming to top-15 teams by a single score, two of which were on the road.
A.J. Epenesa had one of those have-a-day kind of days in Week 12.— Iowa On BTN (@IowaOnBTN) November 17, 2019
Relive the @HawkeyeFootball star DE's big-time plays below. pic.twitter.com/x8TZjq4kPO
Nate Stanley still has a very real chance at leaving as Iowa’s all-time leader in passing touchdowns. A.J. Epenesa is still going to be an All-American. Tristan Wirfs and Alaric Jackson are still special talents to watch on the edge. And this team is filled with young stars in the making.
Live in the moment and enjoy what little there is left of this season. Rush the field even when you’re favored. And for the love of God, eat all the damn bacon you can get your hands on. You only live once, you better enjoy the ride.
Happy Monday, ya’ll. It’s good to be back! It’s good to have Floyd at home. Have an elite week!