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The Optimist’s Guide to the 2019 Iowa Football Season

Take a sip of this... trust me, it’s delicious

Outback Bowl - Mississippi State v Iowa Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

You know that moment right before the start of every football season when you begin to question your own fandom? When the calendar hits the middle of August and you stumble upon that preseason crossroad where you have to choose between the left hand side (aka your brain telling you to believe everything the national media is telling you about your dumb favorite team, that is, when they even mention them at all) or the right hand side (aka your heart telling you that everyone else is wrong and you’re right and that Iowa your team is finally going to hit on all cylinders and take no prisoners on their way to the playoff and maybe, just maybe, win the whole damn thing)?

Well, I’m here to provide you all with some much needed advice. For starters, make sure you ignore the nice, blonde haired Minnesotan to the road to the left who will be begging you to join him tomorrow. He doesn’t REALLY mean all the things he says. Instead, allow me to take you down the road BEST traveled. Let me show you my land of rainbows and butterflies. Cupcakes and candy canes. Big Ten West Championships and NCAA Playoff berths.

I know it’s hard, but don’t let all the prognosticators get you down. The constant “Kirk Ferentz is like Jeff Fisher but in college football” insults are only mentioned because THEY DON’T KNOW ANYTHING. These guys don’t take the time to REALLY research the Hawkeyes. They just read an article from The D.O.C. and make a decision based on what they think they already know.

God bless ‘em, IMO.

They are giving us everything we could ever want. Keep Iowa in the corner... all of us smart, well-researched, die-hard fanatics know what happens when you put Iowa in the corner. We know what happens when Iowa is built through the trenches and has a strong kicking game. We know what happens when Kirk Ferentz has a veteran QB and an underrated secondary.

It’s not some meh 8-4 season. No sir. No way. Not even close.

It’s way more than that. It’s going to be way more than that.

As the great Marshall Mathers once said, “If you had one shot (or one opportunity), to seize everything you ever wanted, in one moment, would you capture it?”

Let’s all swarm and capture it together:


Let me fill you all in on a little secret. A secret that continues to be forgotten among the national college football “media”. You ready for it?

There are only five (COUNT EM) passers in Big Ten history that have thrown 25 or more touchdown passes in multiple seasons. What’s more, there are only three that have done it consecutively. When Stanley inevitably equals his previous output of 26 (as he’s done the past two years), he’ll join only the great Drew Brees (ever heard of him?) as the only other B1G QB with three seasons of 25-plus touchdown passes.

Stanley’s proven time after time that he’s a scoring machine. He’s also the only returning QB in the entire nation to accomplish that feat.

On top of going full send when it comes to throwing tuddys, Stanley is THE best third down QB in all of college football in yards and seventh in total conversions. Read that again. When Iowa needs to move the chains, Brian Ferentz and Co. trusted their guy to get the job done. And when you take into consideration how often the opposing defense knew that Iowa was going to be forced to pass, it’s even more miraculous.

Does Stanley have a few flaws? Sure, what passer doesn’t? But like most of you in your day job, experience is an amazing asset and Stanley has that in spades. He knows he has to be better in the fourth quarter. He knows he has to be better on his touch passes down the field. He knows he needs to get as close as he can to completing 65% of his passes. He knows he’s got to be the leader of this entire offense. He knows he has to be deliver in close games.

Take all of that experience and knowledge, throw them into a pot, sprinkle some Eli and Peyton Manning tips and pointers with the most athletic playmakers he’s had during his tenure at Iowa, and a team that wants to win for each other more than anything else, and the chance to go down as one of the best QB’s in Iowa and Big Ten history all the while building himself into a first round draft pick and what do you get?

A Big Ten West Champion.

If you don’t love it...


This guy is now a Full Time, Prime Time player...

Do I need to even say anything more?

I’m not pushing the boundaries of anyone’s imagination when I say that AJ Epenesa could go down as the most dominant defensive end we have ever seen at Iowa (and there have been some pretty damn good ones). The fact that he tied the league lead in sacks at 10.5 as a part time pass rusher that saw 200 fewer snaps than the two guys in front of him.

If you don’t think he has 18 or more sacks in him this season, you just haven’t been paying attention. Hell, he had four sacks at the Kid’s Day practice last weekend for crying out loud.

But what makes this so important is what the rest of the defensive line (and defense really) is now going to be capable of. If opposing offenses choose to put their tackle on an island against Maui, it’s over. If opposing offenses choose to double team him, the gates open up for guys like Chauncey Golston, Cedrick Lattimore, Brady Reiff and Daviyon Nixon. Plus, the more pressure the line/linebackers can get, the better opportunities our ball hawking secondary will have on top of it.

What makes me love him even more is that he exemplifies everything we love in our Hawkeyes. The way he conducts himself is top notch. He’s one of those rare cases where the kid, his demeanor, work ethic, personality, leadership and performance have exceeded every single expectation any of us ever had.


Thanks to Phil Parker, Iowa has finally embraced the Nickel...which, in turn, puts more speed and playmakers on the field to better defend the spread and other college offenses. This is one of the biggest developments in years at Iowa. Switching to a true 4-2-5 for the majority of snaps also takes advantage of the fantastic work Parker has put in on the recruiting trail by getting another one of Parker’s prized, overly competitive corner/safety’s on the field to #MPOD.

If 2018 is any indicator (Iowa finished second in the nation in interceptions, seventh in total defense, 10th in opponent rushing yards per carry, and 11th in scoring defense), Iowa’s defense is going to continue to be a major issue for offensive coordinators all over the Big Ten.

It also shows how brilliant and important Iowa’s Defensive Coordinator is to this entire program.

Legion of Doom

Never, in the history of Iowa offensive lineman under Kirk Ferentz, has the Dean of the Big Ten ever had a Tag Team like he does in Alaric Jackson and Tristan Wirfs on the offensive line. Their unique combination of power, foot work, hand placement, feel and athleticism is second to none in all of college football (only two sacks given up between the tandem).

Strap the championship belts on these two right now and pay them their first round NFL money.

Kirk’s Final Stand

Let’s face the sad, sad fact that this might be one of the last times Kirk Ferentz will have the opportunity to win the Big Ten. Everything is in front of him to have one of those magical seasons we’ve come to expect every four-five years.

Sure, the schedule is a little daunting, but let’s not pretend that Wisconsin doesn’t have major quarterback and defensive issues, that Northwestern has some sort of “Big Ten Slate Only” magic or that Nebraska has suddenly found five playmakers to surround their “Heisman Trophy” quarterback or still isn’t the defense that gave up 266-yards on the ground to an Iowa team that couldn’t run the football all season long.

Iowa can win the Big Ten West. Iowa can win the Big Ten Championship.

And when they do, it will be because Kirk Ferentz finally got the recipe right. It will be because he finally gave a little bit of leeway to his coaches to show off how brilliant they really are. It will be because he convinced this team to fight every damn day for one another and pushed them to do what everyone thinks they can’t.


And at the end of the day, no matter where the chips may fall, we are all still so damn lucky to have this man as our head ball coach: