Folks...the resident pessimist of this here Iowa Hawkeyes blog is back. And I’m here to tell you, while it’s true we are a mere few weeks away from the return of tailgating on Melrose, AC/DC blaring over the speakers of Kinnick Stadium, and excitement is building toward the return of football, we’re long overdue for some pain on behalf of Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes.
First, let me tell you why, and then I’ll guide you through how to survive it.
Let me get something out in the open right away: my wife and I welcomed a lovely little baby into our lives back in March, so I’m not as much on my game as usual with all of the spring practice and offseason news as I might normally be. Instead, I'm simply on the tired game. So when I don’t talk specifically about how one player might have looked at the Kid’s Day practice or things like that, that’s why. I’m writing this on gut feeling alone, and I think that’s enough, considering we’re talking about Iowa.
Starting off: we have a sold off home slate of football games. That tends to signal optimism about the season. The last time we had a sellout season? 2011. The result of that season? 7-6, a demoralizing loss in triple overtime to Iowa State, and a demoralizing loss at the Insight Bowl. We’re fans of the Iowa Hawkeyes, coached by Kirk Ferentz. Haven’t we learned by now that any time there’s optimism about the season going into it, things go terribly wrong in some way?
Not only that, but the schedule this season is absolutely brutal, and has been troubling to me since I saw it. I absolutely loathe saying this, but we are long overdue for a loss against Iowa State. Yes, we’re at home against them, and yes, I do not think they’re as hyped as they were last season, but isn’t that the perfect recipe for a loss against them? Just when we’re least expecting it? Add on a road game at Ohio State, a road game at Purdue, and home matchups against Michigan and Wisconsin? There’s at least 3 (but possibly 4?) losses baked in there. Let’s go with 4 - this is a pessimism post, after all.
Let’s turn to the man in the article picture as my closing point for reasons for pessimism: Brian Ferentz is still honing the offense, and Spencer Petras is lining up under center. Will the offensive line be better this year? Yes, hopefully, even without Tyler Linderbaum. But I don’t care how many times Brian Ferentz talks to Scott Dochterman about his approach to game planning. I don’t care that the offense looked good at Kid’s Day. Is there reason to hope for success at wideout? You could talk me into it. But this offense lost a lot. Last season’s team relied on the offense to only be competent week in and week out, on the heels of stellar defensive performances, and more often than not, they did not do the job. Here’s where I remind you to give me grace on what might have changed in the offseason, but again, if Kirk and Brian Ferentz are still running the show here, I don’t need to know much to know that much hasn’t changed.
If you really look back on last season, in a lot of ways, a lot broke in this team’s favor. So as an eternal Iowa pessimist, that tells me that this year, everything will go the opposite. Expect demise.
So this is the Pessimist’s Guide to Iowa Football. So how does this pessimist handle the season? Well, first and foremost, I always expect the worst. Go into every season thinking that it will be 2012 all over again and you’re never really disappointed, because you expected it all along. Taking off my pessimistic glasses, this is the exact setup for a completely average, 7-5 season.
I’m not here to look in the macro about the state of the program right now, and how we should be grateful for so many winning seasons. I’m here to talk to you as the guy who has been in the stands for the 2015 Rose Bowl and 2022 Big Ten Championship blowouts. Even when we get a nice thing (an appearance in the Big Ten Championship in a year where we lost to Wisconsin [again]), we can’t have nice things (we lose to Michigan, 42-3, in a stadium where I’m paying $14 for beer just to make it through 3 quarters of football before leaving).
There’s just something in my gut that tells me things could go terribly wrong this year. Don’t get me wrong, I love to be wrong about this stuff! But I’ve been burned too many times in the past to get myself worked up before the first snap of the season about what the season could bring.
Instead, I’ll just sit here, the eternal pessimist, and keep expecting the lows and somewhat savoring the highs, never disappointed but never exactly pleased, either.
All that being said, I’m still extremely excited for the season and all its possibilities. Maybe this time will be different. Probably not, but you never know.