My what a difference a few weeks can make.
Just over two short weeks ago, things were looking bleak for the Iowa Hawkeyes. They had just lost a third straight game and were sitting below .500 on the season and in dead last place in the conference. The only saving grace was a pending matchup with fellow cellar dweller Northwestern inside Kinnick Stadium.
Fast forward two weeks and Iowa is back above .500 and not only out of the cellar, but firmly in the hunt for a Big Ten West title. The Hawkeyes do no control their own destiny as they need to win out and have Illinois lose two of their next three games (which is very doable given their loss at home to Michigan State and a looming trip to Ann Arbor in two weeks), but there’s a very real chance this frustrating group of Hawkeyes can find themselves in Indianapolis in less than a month.
The odd question for Hawkeye fans now is whether or not that would be a good thing. It’s a strange thing to consider. Winning is good. Winning more than your rivals is very good. How on earth could it be a bad thing to find yourselves Big Ten West champions and playing for an outright Big Ten title?
Well, consider who Iowa would play. In a return to Indy, the Hawkeyes would be facing off with a top-5 Michigan or Ohio State. Both teams already defeated the Hawkeyes this season. Michigan handled Iowa in Iowa City while the Buckeyes thoroughly demolished the Hawkeyes in Columbus. Would another beatdown by one of those programs on national TV do much to advance the program?
Perhaps, given just making the title game is an achievement and getting their twice in a row is something only two other programs have accomplished. But what if the regular season result means that Kirk Ferentz feels vindicated for his takes on the offense this season? The narrative out of the football complex has been that fans and the media have overreacted and that things are not that bad for the offense. That there are no changes to the staff needed in season and that things could only really be evaluated after the season ends.
If the Hawkeyes finish with three straight wins, presumably with an offense that looks more like the last two games than the first seven, does anyone believe Kirk will fire (and again, Barta is his boss but the ruse was outed by Barta himself post-Ohio State) his son this offseason? If not, would the wins be worth it? Would he be justified?
That’s the big thing we’re asking in this week’s poll, along with the regularly scheduled programming on your outlook for the rest of the year.