The sentiment among Iowa fans is perhaps at its worst since 2014. But in 2014, the apathy didn’t really hit until the home stretch of the schedule, or perhaps even the postseason for some fans. Even in the dismal 2012 season that was the first losing regular season under Kirk Ferentz since 2000, things were not as apparently dire at the midway point as they are now.
Through six games this season, the Hawkeyes are 3-3. It’s not a terrible mark, but it’s not good considering Iowa is set to travel to Ohio State to take on the Buckeyes after the bye week - a place they have won a game in more than 30 years. The Hawkeyes are a virtual lock to move to sub-.500 territory with the meat of the Big Ten schedule still to come.
In some years, that might not seem as daunting. It’s not often the Hawkeyes get Ohio State and Michigan both in the same season and it’s been quite some time since Iowa faced that task with both teams ranked inside the top-5 nationally.
Pushing fans further and further towards apathy, however, is just how Iowa got to this point. The Hawkeyes have gotten to the midway point with the worst offense in power five football and unquestionably the worst offense Iowa has had under Kirk Ferentz.
The Hawkeyes are 127th nationally in scoring offense at a measly 14.2 points per game. That’s less than half the national average of 30.0 ppg and a full 4 ppg lower than any other season of the Ferentz era. They’ve gotten there with just 9 total touchdowns, which ranks 128th in the nation.
Of course, it’s difficult to score points when you can’t move the ball. Iowa is dead last nationally (131st) in total offense at just 238.7 yards per game. That’s roughly 170 yards below the national average of 409 yards per game. For perspective, a not great Wisconsin team is sitting dead in the middle at that 409 ypg.
Over the last decade, only Wake Forest in 2014 has averaged fewer than 240 yards per game. Which is to say, this year’s Iowa offense is not just bad for this year - they’re historically bad.
And there are no bright spots. The Hawkeyes are 117th in rushing yards per attempt (2.9), 110th in passing yards per attempt (6.1) and 120th in yards per play (4.2). They’re 126th in redzone offense (66.7%), scoring just 40 total points from 12 trips to the redzone. Their 8 total scores inside the 20 is 2nd worst nationally and worst among power five schools.
Iowa is built on controlling the clock by grinding things out on the ground and winning the time of possession battle. But this season, Iowa is 112th nationally in time of possession at just over 27 minutes per game. That’s because they’re not even gaining a single first down on roughly 39% of their drives. Their 13.3 first downs per game is worst among power five schools and second to worst nationally. Only one touchdown scoring drive all season has been longer than 50 yards.
So who should be held accountable for this mess? A majority of Hawkeye fans say it’s Brian Ferentz.
What’s interesting about those responses is not that people want Brian gone. That much has been clear for some time and in any organization outside of Iowa Athletics the offensive coordinator would have already been fired.
What is truly interesting is that only ~35% of fans think Kirk Ferentz should be fired. That number by itself isn’t perhaps that telling, but in the context of our other question, it seems quite low.
That’s because 45% of fans say Kirk is actually the one who should take most of the blame for this ineptitude.
And those 45% are probably right! While things are clearly a disaster this year and have been trending the wrong way under Brian, Iowa has almost always been bad offensively under Kirk. The Hawkeyes have been in the top half nationally in total offense just once in the last 11 years (since Greg Davis took over from Ken O’Keefe) and only five times in Kirk’s 23 seasons. They’ve been top half in scoring four times during that 11 year span before accounting for defensive and special teams scores (which is frankly too much math for this writer).
So yeah, things are bad. They’ve always been bad. Never this bad, but bad. And the result is what we are likely to see the rest of this season.
Which is more than 40% of respondents saying they are so checked out at this point that they don’t plan to watch or go to games. We’ll see just how empty Kinnick Stadium is on October 29th when the Northwestern Wildcats come to town, but it’s hard to blame anyone for turning away from this slow motion train wreck.
And that takes us to the final question we continue to track each week: full season expectations. Not surprisingly, things took a nose dive this week.
After holding strong despite the loss to Michigan, fans are now fearing the worst with just 6% of respondents thinking Iowa will now have a winning season vs a very nice 69% expecting Iowa to finish with a losing record and no shot at a bowl game.
Buckle up folks, the train wreck is just getting started. And if comments from Kirk Ferentz after the Illinois game and Brian during his mid-week presser are any indication, it’s not going to be over any time soon.