Three weeks ago, Hawkeye fans were waking up on game day feeling some mixture of dread and apathy. Iowa was fresh off a 31-0 shellacking at the hands of Penn State and things were looking dire. That evening, the outlook would turn even more bleak as starting QB Cade McNamara went down with a torn ACL and the abysmal Iowa offense looked doomed.
Fast forward to today and the offense still looks abysmal but the team’s outlook has been flipped on its head. Brian Ferentz seems to be determined to outdo himself week after week, perhaps culminating in Iowa’s 37 passing yards over the course of the entire game last week. But none of it matters.
The defense and special teams have once again proven they’re capable of carrying any load, no matter how heavy the offense makes it. Phil Parker has his guys playing at a level on par with what we saw a season ago. Tory Taylor is putting his name alongside the legend of Reggie Roby. Cooper DeJean is earning his spot as a 1st round draft pick.
And the end result is poetry in motion in the eyes of Kirk Ferentz. What the offense does is irrelevant with everyone else carrying the load.
That’s put the Hawkeyes in a familiar position. Iowa enters the day atop the Big Ten West standings and holding the keys to the car. The Hawkeyes not only control their own destiny, but can drop a stinker somewhere, provided it’s to the right teams.
But we’ve seen that movie before and a season ago, Iowa used the keys to drive said car right into the Missouri River in their matchup with Nebraska and send the Purdue Boilermakers to Indianapolis instead. Will the Hawkeyes shoot themselves in the foot again this season?
The fanbase doesn’t seem to think so with a full 80% of Hawkeyes fans now expecting Iowa to win the West.
Surely nothing could go wrong. We’ve never been let down before. And with an offense that is humming along and creating such large margins for error?
In all seriousness, it’s a bit alarming just how confident the fanbase has become in Iowa’s ability to live in the margins and emerge victorious without much happening on the offensive side of the ball. Perhaps that’s due to the fact it’s happened so frequently over the last several years, or perhaps it’s due to the running game seemingly figuring some things out over the last two games.
Iowa is averaging more than 190 yards per game on the ground in their last two Big Ten contests. Such success running the ball has been rare for the Hawkeyes over the last few seasons and truly could open things up for the play-action passing game. Or at the very least, keep the offense on the field long enough for Taylor and the defense to catch their breath and win games on their own.
That seems to be exactly what Vegas and the fanbase are expecting today. Iowa is favored by 3.5 points as of this morning (down from the 5.5-point line that opened up the week) in a game that now boasts the lowest over/under total points on record (dating back to 1995).
And 84% of Hawkeye fans think they’ll get the job done.
That’s a pretty big chunk of the fanbase calling for a victory in the battle for Floyd of Rosedale. It’s actually up a bit from the 81% of fans who called for an Iowa win in the preseason polling.
Since that poll, obviously expectations for the Iowa offense have taken a nosedive and the Hawkeyes have seen McNamara, Luke Lachey and Erick All each go down with season-ending injuries. But we’ve also seen the Gopher struggle this season, falling to 3-3 after being utterly dismantled by Michigan a week ago.
Now the Hawkeyes have a chance to put an end to any hopes Minnesota fans may still have of winning the division while also keeping Floyd in Iowa City for a ninth straight time.
Kickoff is set for 2:30pm inside Kinnick. Today’s game will be broadcast on NBC and streamed live on Peacock.