It’s been just under five years since former Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst announced that he had to “evaluate where Iowa was as a program” when making a determination to fire then head coach Bo Pelini for underperformance.
It was a hot button comment for Iowa fans at the time. The Hawkeyes should have defeated Nebraska that day, which would have made Eichorst’s decision quite easy and would have likely prevented any such commentary. Instead, Iowa found a way to blow a 24-7 third quarter lead at home. That left Eichorst, whose mind had clearly been made up prior to the game, searching for an explanation for firing his coach.
Pelini, for his part, had never won fewer than 9 games in a season at Nebraska. But this is Nebraska we are talking about - they don’t expect to be good, they expect to be great. And we can all agree that 9-10 wins a year isn’t great.
And if we’re being honest, a lot of Hawkeye fans were wondering where Iowa was as a program at the end of the 2014 season. Iowa won just 7 games in the regular season and was obliterated by Tennessee in the TaxSlayer Bowl. They hadn’t won more than 8 games in a season since 2009 and had an abysmal 2012 season thrown in that time span. Things weren’t exactly looking up and as many Iowa fans were calling for Ferentz to be fired as were looking to renew their season tickets.
As we stand here today, the tables have turned mightily. Eichorst isn’t even at the helm anymore and Nebraska is on its second head coach post-Pelini. And while they have their Lord and savior at the helm, he won more games in his final season at UCF than he has in his first two combined with the Huskers. He’s won just 6 conference games in two seasons and Nebraska hasn’t been within earshot of a trip to Indianapolis since the day Bo Pelini walked out the door. The vaunted Blackshirts defense is giving up 28 points and more than 180 yards on the ground a game.
Iowa, by contrast, turned on its heel following Eichorst’s remarks and ran the table in 2015. They made their first and only Big Ten Championship Game appearance that season and returned to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1991. Ferentz and staff haven’t won fewer than 8 games in a season since that 2014 letdown. He’s now tied with Hayden Fry for third all-time in Big Ten Conference wins. And Iowa hasn’t lost to Nebraska since Eichorst opened his mouth.
Now, entering this final week of the regular season in 2019, Iowa fans find themselves in a similar boat as Nebraska fans in 2014. We all want to win this game Friday, even expect it. This team has only lost 3 games all year, all to top-13 teams in the polls and by an average of 4.5 points. We should have won at least two of them if not for complete failures by the Hawkeye offense.
And now fewer than 9 wins seems like an underachievement. A loss at a bad Nebraska team would be disastrous. Fans would be clamoring for change. We’re sick of the status quo with 8-9 wins a year and a decent bowl game. We want more. We expect more. Even if we win in Lincoln on Friday, we have to take that in context and evaluate where the Huskers are as a program. It’s certainly not as good as Iowa was in 2014.
Besides, what’s the worst that could happen?
Happy Monday, ya’ll. It’s a short week. Enjoy it. And this Thanksgiving, be thankful you aren’t Nebraska fans.