Yesterday BoilerHawk wrote an excellent piece titled “2021 Iowa Hawkeyes Football: An Optimist’s Guide”. He’s a good dude and a great writer. He’s also wrong. We’re Iowa. We can’t have nice things. I have come to the realization that when I get my hopes up regarding my favorite sports teams, they come crashing down.
A little history. I grew up in northeast Iowa. At the time you were either a Cubs (WGN) fan or a Braves (WTBS) fan. I was all-in on the Cubs. Like many others I jumped on the Cubs bandwagon in 1984. I then watched every game. I would record on my VHS any game I couldn’t watch live. I moved to the Twin Cities (after the magic of the 1987/91 Minnesota Twins). I then dropped my Cubs fan card and became a huge fan of the Twins. I missed out on the 2016 Cubs. The Twins can’t win a playoff game and are now garbage. Oh yeah. I’m also a big Vikings fan. You get the picture. Long story short, the Hawkeyes are my only squad that brings me some joy and the thought of a successful campaign.
I’m a huge fan of our Hawks, especially Kirk Ferentz and Phil Parker. I have cooled on Brian Ferentz; one of the reasons was last year’s Northwestern game where he had newbie Spencer Petras throw over 50 passes in a game in which we led most of the game... I will never get over that. Anyway, a B1G championship would be a huge thrill for me and all of Hawk Nation. Here’s why it’s not happening this year:
Iowa travels to both Wisconsin and Northwestern. The road to Lucas Oil Stadium goes through both of those towns. Bucky is always good and Northwestern has one of those coaches who you hate but at the same time would love to have as our post-Ferentz coach. I know, I know. Broken-leg-Pat hates us. Whatever. The Hawks also have to travel to Nebraska. We’ve had their number, but eventually the worm will turn. Also, Pajamas Fleck has a dartboard with Kirk’s face on it after last year’s, “Figured we’d take Floyd with us and leave the timeouts here.” That was beautiful but the Goofs will play with an extra edge that day for the captain of the boat. Finally, Bret Bielema is an excellent Big Ten football coach. He understands how to win in the conference, he’s in a recruiting hotbed, and he’d give his leg with the Tigerhawk tattoo to beat his former squad. All of this adds up to a scary fall for our boys.
The Offensive Line
Iowa has had one of the best offensive lines in college football over the last 40 years. Kirk Ferentz is directly responsible for this. He can do magic. Iowa also is breaking in a new offensive line coach in George Barnett. Iowa must replace both starting tackles from last year. Also, starting guard Kyler Schott looks to miss a pretty significant chunk of the season with a foot injury. Tyler Linderbaum may be the best player in all of college football, but he can’t do it alone. Also, in year’s past, the Hawks have gotten their feet wet with directional schools, not the case this year with two ranked opponents in Indiana and Iowa State. The Hawks have some terrific young lineman who will play in the NFL down the road. That road has a few potholes this year, I’m afraid. Spencer Petras may be running for his survival.
The Defensive Line
So the offensive line is a bit inexperienced. At least we have a veteran defensive line, right? Nope. Zach VanValkenburg does have a wealth of experience, but after that the Hawks are a little thin. Daviyon Nixon balled out last year and both he and Jack Heflin will be playing on Sundays. That type of production is hard to replace. The Hawkeyes do have some tremendous young players who will be dudes, but that won’t come in time. I think this unit hits its stride halfway through the season, but by then our B1G West dreams have come tumbling down. Even the David Copperfield of defensive coaches, Phil Parker, won’t be able to get this group to gel in time for the Hawks’ title hopes to be saved. Iowa’s running backs are not only a solid unit but a strength, but in the Kids’ Day scrimmage, the running backs ran all over the defense. Not a great omen.
Football games are won in the trenches. Always have been. Always will. With the tough schedule to start, Iowa won’t be afforded the luxury of getting inexperienced players up to speed like they have in the past. These guys are being thrown into the deep end of the pool with weighted vests. Will they eventually thrive? Of course. They are Hawkeyes and we are the best program in college football. We develop players like no other. But for this year we will have some tough sledding.
One last point. If you followed my writing last year, I picked the Hawks to win against both Purdue and Northwestern. After those two losses, I purposely started picking against our boys. The result? We ran the table. So, let’s get this out of the way now. Hawks go winless. 0-12. You’re welcome. At least we get the number one pick next year. As always, Go Hawks!