Well did we really expect anything different?
Let’s get real - this was always a Mount Everest without oxygen summit bid. Line in the Michigan -22-24 range all week. Iowa over/under point totals per half under 3 in most places, and some books had it under a point per half. An offense that is somehow worse than a year ago (a year when the offense was a full-on catastrophe) against a team that plays almost perfect football, on both sides. You must play a perfect game to have a shot.
Iowa didn’t play a perfect game, but for awhile, it was there. Iowa had reasons to believe. Iowa held Michigan to 213 yards of offense. 3.3 yards per play. That was the lowest of the Jim Harbaugh era.
Michigan's 3.3 yards/play of offense tonight mark their single worst offensive performance in the entirety of the Jim Harbaugh era.— Jeff (BPredict) (@BPredict) December 3, 2023
The last time Michigan put up only 3.3 yards/play was October 25, 2014, when Brady Hoke was losing 35-11 to Michigan State.
But this is what happens when you are Iowa’s offense and you play an imperfect game. The defense can ball out, they almost sit on Michigan’s offense, but the governor is on, plus Brian Ferentz runs plays, so there’s no chance to actually work in concert with the defense. Iowa’s had nothing going on offense all year - why start now?
What was there to lose? Brian isn’t going to be retained, something we’ve known since Halloween. Go out guns blazing! Instead we got the flaccid, “we’re going to play this like a regular season game” game plan which is proven to be ineffective in these sorts of games.
And then the path for a win beyond the shit-tastic offense - force turnovers, win field position, take advantage with the dreadful offense whenever you get opportunities - never fully materialized. Iowa got a short porch on a bad Michigan punt...and they fumbled on third and short. The second Iowa turnover is dubious at best, but officiating decisions are beyond anyone’s control. Iowa had to be perfect and they weren’t. They ended the game -3 in turnover margin. That number, plus blowing opportunities to score when the game was still close? No chance. Iowa had no chance, and that sentence feels awful to write given how the defense played. Iowa’s defense was awesome Saturday night and part of the team led by Brian Ferentz couldn’t figure it out.
- Now - Brian got some fans back in his corner, even if just for a few minutes (guilty here), by getting the 15-yarder on a play that was 1) called dead, then 2) just happened to have a bouncing ball on what the players thought was a dead ball end up with a Michigan player, be awarded to Michigan on a play Dean Blandino wasn’t sure should’ve been overturned. My hand is up, fully supporting it - get that 15-yarder and hope that ref felt the spittle on his face. You earned it, bud. You earned a little Brian spit in your face. I hope Brian worked on his enunciation. Rubber baby buggy bumpers.
BUT - Brian had his shot and he was uniquely bad at this. Uniquely bad. Don’t for a second forget that Iowa held Michigan to 213 yards of offense but they got shut out. Iowa’s defense didn’t deserve that final score line. Look at some of the statistics in this Jon Miller tweet:
Iowa has averaged 16.6ppg this season, in 13 games. The last three times where Iowa averaged less than this?— JMinKC (@jontificate) December 3, 2023
1999 and 2000: Kirk's first two years.
1998: Hayden's last year.
1980: The year before Hayden turned things around.
Every one of Forest Evashevski's Iowa teams in…
Iowa had the worst offense they’ve had in 25 years, since the early days of the Ferentz era, the last year of the Hayden Fry era, then...the second year of the Fry era. I wasn’t alive yet for that 1980 number. But yeah, Kirk, Mary, and Co. think the timing of Brian’s dismissal was bad. GTFO. Beth Goetz made the best possible decision for the Iowa program.
- Please hire Beth Goetz as the full-time athletic director (the job posting is firmly in the “we have to post this, otherwise we’d get in trouble” zone of job postings; she will formally apply and the interview will be burger baskets and big beers at Bo James). Her decision to remove Brian is the best thing to happen to the program in...geez, I don’t even know the timeline on this. I think she’ll be a great athletics director for the University of Iowa. The department has lacked direction for a long time. Finally, we have what appears to be a steady hand in the chair.
- I do have quibbles with the second part of Miller’s tweet. Yeah - the degree of difficulty for Iowa gets steeper with USC, UCLA, Oregon, and Pac-12 champion Washington joining the fray, especially if this is the offense Iowa deploys. If this is what Iowa deploys then all bets are off. But a few things work in Iowa’s favor. They won’t have a schedule that is only those teams plus Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin. The league won’t have schedules like that. And did you watch those teams this year? USC is SOFT as a program. UCLA is on their last legs with Chip Kelly - will he be on the sideline by the time they play Iowa next year? Oregon is a fun program with oodles of money, but they looked pretty soft Friday night against Washington as the Huskies man-balled them late. And the Huskies? Well they’ve been an up-and-down program for well over a decade now. One wrong hire and they can bottom out just as easily as Iowa can. Also, I’ve seen these power programs flail around in the remote outposts of Pullman and Corvallis before - how will they deal with Kinnick or Camp Randall or Whatever Minnesota’s Stadium Is Called in November? Can you imagine USC playing the same game Iowa played in Minneapolis last year when it was sub-zero temperatures? Good luck, California bros.
Programs such as Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Northwestern won outright Big Ten titles with pretty bad hands dealt to them. This isn’t Mission: Impossible. Those programs always have a recruiting disadvantage, but they can hit on the right guys, right coaches, and win the league, sometimes with an undefeated or one-loss league mark. This isn’t the death knell for the middle or lower class of the Big Ten. It’s definitely more difficult - those undefeated or one-loss teams would have one more game to play in the title game - but it was also difficult in the early 1980s when Ohio State and Michigan ruled the roost and they were the only Big Ten champions for over a decade.
- Playoffs? Let’s talk playoffs. This sport will lack legitimacy if a 13-0 team from what is a power 5 league is left out of the playoff. But that’s what we’re looking at. 13-0 Michigan, 13-0 Washington, and 12-1 Texas in due to a head-to-head win over Alabama, with 13-0 Florida State vs. 12-1 Alabama left to duke it out for the last spot. We might live in a world where 12-1 is greater than 13-0. Three 13-0 teams, and one might be left out. I won’t watch if that’s the case. If that is the case, games don’t matter.
- Even though I don’t believe Alabama should be included...Michigan vs. Alabama, 1 vs. 4, is juicy AF. I’d root for Alabama in that instance. Michigan-Alabama is a nightmare game for Michigan. You really want a Saban-led team in that scenario? Yikes. No thanks. Michigan vs. Everybody? Eat shit.
- Even though I went into Saturday with no expectations, that still sucked. Good night.