Let’s start with the obvious: the 2020 Iowa Hawkeyes football season is an absolute “what if” season during Kirk Ferentz’s tenure. There is no sense harping on all the various iterations of them - because there are plenty - but Kirk Ferentz has, once again, put together an unquestionable success of a [regular] season despite the early season losses.
Yet the campaign is only a great “what if” because of how Iowa reacted when faced with adversity.
First, after losing two games, it could have been very easy for any number of Hawkeyes to shirk the protocols thrust upon them to catch and mitigate COVID-19 outbreaks which could have sunk the operation. This goes for players and coaches alike. Yet Iowa found reason to stick together, follow the rules, keep clean (literally) and get a little lucky.
There were just three teams who completed every scheduled game. Only four teams finished the Big Ten season with a winning record. Iowa occupies the single-team center of that Venn Diagram.
So yeah, let’s celebrate that Iowa played every single game they were set to play. It’s not lost on me that both Penn State & Rutgers (fellow eight-gaamers) went out on high notes in the regular season with wins yesterday.
Next, Iowa simply won the games. Without six straight wins, we are not harping on the hypotheticals. Well, we probably are, but they are of a much different variety. Winning cures all (or more like hides all but that is another discussion entirely), and it certainly did for Hawkeye fans the last month and a half.
Those six wins include:
- three trophy wins (Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin)
- ending three multi-year losing streaks (Michigan State, Penn State, Wisconsin)
- continuation of three winning streaks (Minnesota, Nebraska, Illinois)
Finally, they did it while posting genuinely shocking margin of victories amidst quarterback non-controversy. Iowa’s 21.8 MOV/game over the last 6 weeks exceeds...everyone’s except Ohio State’s (23 points).
Now, the resume comparisons within the conference feel like a pillow fight as there were so many bogeys on the schedule, but Iowa asserted themselves as at least the fourth best team in the conference and arguably the second most talented behind the Buckeyes.
As for the quarterback spot, there is genuine reason to believe the last two games are the beginning of a larger trend for Spencer Petras. The wins in spite of his play turned into wins in part because of his play.
Kirk Ferentz’s Iowa hyper-emphasizes the administrative qualities of the QB, something Spencer Petras had (and has) passed with flying colors. Ferentz said a couple weeks ago, that Petras gets plays called in the huddle on time as a big tick mark in the “pro” column of Petras but really, it is.
How many games in past seasons have we lamented Iowa’s inability to stay literally on schedule?
Further, it has allowed Kirk Ferentz to stay the course with his quarterback decision instead of chase his tail in terms of finding quick wins as a result of “who’s the right quarterback?” and get his reps.
It’s fair to wonder if he, or any quarterback, hits those deep throws to Ihmir Smith-Marsette without #1 reps in games, and practices.
As I have said in this space before: so much of 2020 will have a direct impact on 2021. As with this season, the Hawkeyes open the ‘21 schedule with a Big Ten opponent: Indiana.
While Iowa loses plenty of contributors (early draft entrants remain to be seen but it’s fair to say no senior will return despite the free year), Iowa has proven over the last three years to be a “reload” operation. In the only area which matters (wins), Iowa has improved each of 2018 & 2019 with the opportunity to go 7-2 in conference play with a win next week; another year-on-year improvement.
Success begets success and, as such, there is no reason Iowa cannot improve even more next year.