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Free-For-All Friday: That Holiday Feeling!

The Hawkeyes demolished USC in the Holiday Bowl and it’s safe to say we are excited about Iowa in 2020.

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 27 Holiday Bowl - USC v Iowa
The Hawkeyes demolished USC en route to the Holiday Bowl title.
Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Happy Friday everyone. It’s been a holiday-shortened week, but if you’re anything like me, between the long Tuesday night, the 10 pounds of holiday weight winter layer and catching back up at work, it feels like it’s been a long one. Fear not, Hawkeye fans, we’re here to get you through the rest of your Friday and into the weekend.

If it’s Friday, it’s a free-for-all. And today we’re talking Holiday Bowl highlights and what that means for 2020. Saddle up, partner!

JP: Jerry, Jerry, Jerry, I don’t know about you, but I still got that Holiday feeling!

How you livin’ post-Christmas, post-Holiday Bowl, post-Iowa hoops non-con schedule?

Jerry: I’ve had a grand total of two days off during the “Holidays” because, as many of our dear and loyal readers know, produce doesn’t sleep my friend. So, instead of eggnog and elfs on shelfs flying through my head, I’m over here worrying about how I’m going to get green beans in Florida because of how much rain they’re getting.

’Tis the season.

Thankfully for me, the Iowa Hawkeyes and Brian Effing Ferentz put on their greatest offensive performance of the season last Friday and the D.O.C. put out a brilliant piece on Spencer Petras this past Monday proclaiming that he apparently has the personality of CJB and all of the arm talent of Stanley. And when you add the Holiday Bowl offense with the “Audible Stanley, but better” ceiling of Petras together, I’m so unbelievably juiced for the next 6-7 years of the Iowa program, part of me wants to start booking my hotels in Indy through the 2027 season right now.

JP: Buddy let me tell you, after a week off (plus two weekends) with a 5- and 2-year-old plus a 4-month-old, being at work on Monday came with a giant sigh of relief. Anyone in child care (including stay at home parents) is a saint.

But you just hit on two things I am DYING to get into.

The first is Brian and his masterpiece last week. Let me say first and foremost that he did a tremendous job calling that game. His plan coming in to use USC’s speed and athleticism against them by running misdirection and allowing them to over-pursue was tremendous. I loved nearly everything I saw him call with only a few exceptions (I didn’t love running Toren Young on a deep pass route, for example – though I’ll openly admit he’s the last guy a defense would expect to be 20 yards downfield).

All that said, I want to pump the brakes just a touch. The great offensive output came against a Pac-12 defense that was… not great. We knew they weren’t great coming in. It’s part of the reason so many of our staff predicted Iowa to score more than their season average. All the hand-wringing all season and all the people now clamoring, “where was this all year” should be focused on the fact the Iowa offense did well against average or worse defenses and struggled against the good ones. That is the case for every team so I don’t hold it against Ferentz, but it should be a word of caution for next season’s expectations.

Speaking of next season, I. Am. Hyped. I know the schedule doesn’t get much better, but this team has a TON coming back. Losing Wirfs, if (when) it happens, will sting. But the offensive line was a revolving door in the middle all season, which was the biggest contributor to the offensive woes in my mind. Brian called some decent games, but was hamstrung all year by a lack of competent line play in the middle (ex-Linderbaum). All that game experience for guys like Kallenberger, Schott, Britt and Banwart is going to pay huge dividends next year. Oh, and having Tyler Goodson as THE guy all season won’t hurt either.

Add to that the deepest, most talented group of receivers I can remember at Iowa and there is a lot of reason to have hope for this offense. There will be no excuses for Brian next season with the talent he has with the exception of the new QB.

But that may not be a negative! There will certainly be ups and downs with a first year starter, but I’m going to keep banging the Spencer Petras drum until the damn thing breaks. The kid was a STUD at the high school level. For everyone who has forgotten or is pounding the table for Deuce Hogan (who I think will be great in his time, but he ain’t topping Petras any time soon), recall that in his senior year at Marin Catholic (the same school as LA Rams QB Jared Goff) he finished with 4,157 passing yards with 50 (!!!) touchdowns and only 2 interceptions (!!!!) with 64% completion percentage. Those make Hogan’s 2,363 yards, 29 TDs with 6 INTs on 58% passing look downright boring.

Now, I’ll admit I haven’t had time to read Doc’s piece on Petras, but based on the optimism you displayed on this week’s episode of SpoCo Radio, I can assume it was a pretty glowing report. That’s exactly what I would expect. I think this kid’s abilities are going to blow people away once he gets comfortable in the offense. He is not a dual-threat guy, but he can make literally any throw you would ask of a QB and he knows how to read a defense. He’s going to have more weapons around him than we’ve seen in some time and we now know his blind side is going to be protected by a talented veteran in Alaric Jackson.

I. Am. JACKED for next year.

Jerry: When it comes to the reasons Brian Ferentz was hamstrung this season, I don’t disagree with you one bit. In my opinion (and this only doubled after we talked with Robbie Foley), BF showed us everything we’ve ever wanted out of an OC but because of some shotty interior line play, and some great Big Ten defenses, there was a lot that he was trying to do that was blown up. Now of course, that’s also because Iowa played some of the best defenses in college football, but correct me if I’m wrong, isn’t USC perfectly in the middle defensively? And isn’t middle of the road against Pac-12 offenses (in which most people assume are more potent than anything Iowa could possibly put together) decently decent?

At the very least, isn’t USC on the same level defensively as Rutgers/Illinois/Purdue/Miami of Ohio/Nebraska? Maybe it’s just recency bias, but what Iowa did against USC was a lot different than what they did against those latter teams. There was a level of conservatism in those regular season games that did not exist in this game. Right?

I love what you said about BF using USC’s athleticism against them, but JP, BRIAN ALSO USED HIS OWN ATHLETES AGAINST THEM TOO!

Brian Ferentz made a real, BIG effort to get the ball creatively to ISM and Sam LaPorta and Brandon Smith and Tyler Goodson. Isn’t that what we always beg him to do? Put the rock in your best players hands and let them go out there and #MPOD? If we just assume that this was a terrible Pac-12 team, then why JP, didn’t Iowa score more and look as fluid against the Purdue/Rutgers/Illinois/Miami of Ohio teams? I know they scored enough in each of those contests, but it wasn’t 35-points by themselves enough.

You know it. I know it. Everyone that watched that game knows it. This was a different offense. This was a confident, “we’re going to keep our foot on the gas and finally give our defense the type of scoring performance they deserve year in and year out” performance.

Maybe we finally Freaky Friday’d our way back into our normal bodies to start 2020, but I think BF does deserve all the credit we can give him. This was a masterpiece. There wasn’t a single moment when Iowa, comfortable with a 10 point lead, turtle shelled and played the field position game. The entire playbook was open in a bowl game matchup that I was told #MATTERED against superior athletes that would make us want to hide in the cornfields until 2025.

And most importantly, he proved to his father, that this shit can work for 4 quarters!

JP: Well, I’ve got to disagree with one point based purely on the stats.

“And isn’t middle of the road against Pac-12 offenses (in which most people assume are more potent than anything Iowa could possibly put together) decently decent? “

Clearly, Iowa CAN put together something more potent sine they dropped 49 on a USC defense that gave up an average of 28 points a game coming in. Now, I’m having fun with words there, but to actually answer your question: no, I don’t think they were middle of the road. They rank 78th nationally in scoring defense (out of 130 teams). That was middle of the road for the Pac-12, but if you consider that the other Pac-12 schools had to face that USC offense, I think it’s safe to say they were probably slightly below average in a conference full of teams bad at defense.

And yes, I do think the Pac-12 defenses get punished a bit for playing against really good offenses. But time and again we see those Pac-12 offenses score below their season average against opponents from other power 5 conferences and those same opponents outdo their season averages. The Pac-12 and Big 12 simply are not good at playing defense.

And against those defenses you pointed out which Iowa played against, they scored 30, 19, 26, 38 and 27. All but Illinois gave up more than Iowa’s season average. So again I say, “I AM SO SURPRISED IOWA SCORES MORE AGAINST BAD DEFENSES THAN GOOD ONES!”

Look, I don’t think Brian is an offensive wizard, but he is a step up from what we saw with Greg Davis. He does some things that make you want to scream, but if you’ve watched more than a minute of the bowl season you know every OC in the country has those moments. I think he was severely hamstrung by the offensive line this season, despite the talented tackles. Getting the middle healthy and experienced for next year will be huge.

It’s the most Iowa fan thing possible for me to do, but I’m optimistic about what this offense can do in 2020. The second most Iowa fan thing possible is for me to be outraged next fall when they lay a turd against a top-5 defense at Ohio State as if it’s some kind of indictment of the playcalling.

Jerry: My only retort to that well thought out response is that of the 30, 19, 26, 38 and 27 points scored against those teams I mentioned, only one of those games jumped past the 30.04 points per game average in college football that was set in 2017...