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The Pessimist’s Guide to Iowa Football 2020

Why feel hope when you can feel dread?

Rutgers v Iowa Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

In case you hadn’t heard, the Big Ten has brought back a fall football schedule. With an October 24th start date officially official, we’ll be spending the weeks leading up to the return to Hawkeye football previewing the only things we didn’t preview the first time around. Or the second time around. Each Friday up through game week we’ll be running some form of a “guide” to the 2020 season. While in seasons past, we haven’t typically started with the Pessimist’s Guide, 2020 isn’t a typical year. It’s only fitting that we kick things off this year with perhaps the saddest post of the year.

[Editor’s Note: Despite advising this piece be limited to simply “they don’t play,” apparently there is a lot more that could go wrong. Because of course there is - it’s 2020.]

I’ve never felt more pessimistic about Iowa Football than I do this year.

We have less than 30 days to go until the season, and I just don’t know how it’s all going to work. How the season will shake out. I’ve never felt this conflicted about the thought of even watching college football, let alone watching these unpaid student athletes play for television money for entertainment, with the chance that, within a few weeks of playing, it might just...end.

And all of that is before you even go into the football part of it, removing the global pandemic from the whole thing.

You know by now that Iowa is playing a 9-game, Big Ten conference only schedule starting in just about a month. For teams at the top of the conference like Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan, it’s fine, they’ ll go right into the season and find success.

But teams like Iowa could — and probably will — struggle. We all know this is a developmental program, and a big part of that development comes in the early season. We see maybe a loss we shouldn’t, some struggles and movement on the offensive and defensive lines, all in preparation for conference play, where inevitably (and ideally) the defense will come alive, the offensive line will become fearsome, and the offense will have multiple games under their belt to know what works and doesn’t.

Not this year.

Add in the fact that we’re breaking in a new quarterback in Spencer Petras and replacing talent on both ends of the ball across a ton of positions, the road to success for Iowa in whatever this Big Ten season is will not be easy in the long run. I have faith in Spencer Petras but we had no spring practice or camp to base our feelings on. We are heading into a new Hawkeye football quarterback era about as blind as we could possibly be, all things considered.

Oh, yeah, the schedule, too. Look at this:

Starting the season, on the road, at Purdue, who has given Iowa fits the entire Jeff Brohm era, is a challenge. Now, you could say that Purdue is in the same situation as Iowa, and that’s probably true, but the point here is that there’s a difference between playing Purdue in your season opener and Miami (OH). And it doesn’t get easier from there at all. Traveling to Minnesota in week 4, and immediately going to College Park the following week is going to be tricky, especially with Nebraska looming on Black Friday right afterward. Oh, and closing the season against Wisconsin?


Add in the fact that, y’know, there’s a global pandemic going on and the team hypothetically lose any number of players to the virus at any time, and you have a recipe for disaster.

There are no givens on this schedule at all. Iowa will need to play its best football — and fast! — for a realistic chance to even hit .500 with that brutal schedule. Sure, we lost a match with Ohio State when cutting down from 10 to 9, but there are more games I would consider an on-paper toss up/loss than a guaranteed win.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited that these student athletes get a chance to play this season, in whatever strange fashion it is. And I always go into these seasons with a sense of impending doom, only (at least for the last three years) to come out of it feeling overall happy with the state of things.

But this is 2020 folks. When has having hope gotten us anywhere?