I took all of last week off from writing. Working in an important Thanksgiving supply chain is not for the faint of heart and when it all culminates in working 70+ hours before I can even stuff my face, well I’m sure you understand why I needed a second to catch my breath. That plus cutting down a tree and decorating the entire house for Christmas all the while watching Iowa somehow sneak out another win against Nebraska, and well, I was reasonably exhausted and my brain hurt.
Ho. Ho. Ho.
Honestly, I just had nothing to muse over. Iowa’s defense and special teams gave opportunity after opportunity to the Iowa offense and at the end of it all, they figured out a way to win against an inferior team just as they have nine other times this season.
It’s been copy and paste, copy and paste and copy and paste.
The defense is ELITE. The special teams unit has had some blemishes but that’s probably because we see so much of them week in and week out that when its not perfect it feels like it’s falling apart...so it’s probably just as ELITE as ever but we’re jaded.
And the offense is whole heartedly offensive.
Ultimately what it came down to is that I couldn’t get mad at logo-less Brian anymore. I couldn’t think about what the meaning was behind another Kirk Ferentz post-game interview that led to tears. I couldn’t think about what Iowa can do in the portal and in the open coaching market to fix things because I knew that we were about to see it all culminate together in Indy.
I needed a break.
I felt too pessimistic. I’m the optimist here. I can’t be crying over spilled milk every Monday.
So I stepped away. Turned off my Iowa notifications and that part of my brain and it was nice.
But before I knew it, Saturday morning hit. Now, I know this won’t come as a shocker but Saturday’s are my favorite days in this house. I get my daughter up, I throw her in her lucky grey Iowa shirt, I put her in the car, I get a coffee, she gets a cake pop and we share a yogurt parfait and then I run her into the ground at the park. Up and down that slide we “go, go, go”.
And I’m happy.
Every now and then we’ll even get a “Go Hawks”. We smile and laugh.
What a time.
It was no different this Saturday. By the time I get her down for her nap, my heart was so full that I was just looking for places to put that happiness. That’s when the alure of CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP SATURDAY hit. That’s also when I started watching the plethora of Twitter/X hype videos.
Happiness and hype make Jerry a dumb boy.
In that exact moment of zen, I started to convince myself... Any Given Saturday.
I’ve been saying it since the summer, if Iowa didn’t make the Big Ten Championship it would be a disappointing season. I didn’t say they needed to score 20 points to do it. They just needed to get there. How could I be a hypocrite now. They made it. They did what they set out to do.
Kirk, as is life, found a way.
Why not us? Why not just go and win the whole thing since we’re here anyways.
I could feel my belief meter filling up like Santa’s Sleigh in Buddy the Elf.
And that’s when the Fox broadcast started with their Pro-Michigan onslaught of stories. And just like many of you, I started to feel disrespected. That clarity went out the door and in its stead came the giant Iowan chip on my shoulder.
How dare they put the O/U of Iowa first half points at .5? I know we’re bad but that’s just a slap in the face. Hell, that’s bulletin board material! Kirk is going to use every bit of that. Michigan vs. Everybody? The hell it is, you cheating scum! It’s US vs. EVERYBODY. Nobody believes in us accept for us! And we’re all we need baby. We’ve proven that all season long. Sure, Penn State was a disaster but look what happened since then! The refs had to make one of the most egregious calls in the history of football to keep us out of this playoff race.
We aren’t just some push over. This team is a hard nosed football team. And I don’t see anything particularly special about JJ McCarthy that makes me worried we can’t compete.
Shoot, maybe we’ll just come out and punch Michigan right in the mouth. Maybe Brian is going to finally say eff it (copy and paste, copy and paste, copy and paste) and just let it all hang out and break all of the tendencies and we’re going to get so weird on offense that Michigan won’t know what hit ‘em and we’ll be up 10-0 before they even know what happened and it will feel like we’re up by 5-scores because our defense won’t let them score.
OH SHIT BRIAN’S WEARING A LOGO! HE’S ALL IN! WE’RE GOING TO WIN THIS AND MAKE EVERYONE REMEMBER THE TITA...ER...HAWKEYES!
Welp... they did it to me again. And I’m sure I’m not alone in that.
Look, in terms of the actual game itself, Iowa’s defense was everything we’ve come to expect. They were all over the field, they made it nearly impossible for JJ McCarthy to feel comfortable and he wasn’t very special. They got to him better than almost every other game they played this season. It was perfect. It was elite. It was playoff worthy.
And the offense let them down. Again. No shocker there. We all saw the tweets after the game. It is what it is at this point. Iowa cannot score or move the football and they especially cannot do it against the top-tier Big Ten programs they face or in that great city that is Indianapolis.
And ultimately, that’s why we’re getting a change.
Do I care about the Citrus Bowl? Not really. It’s an exhibition that means nothing. Iowa will go play great defense and probably make Tennessee’s day a living hell and we’ll maybe score 10-points. A month of doing nothing but practicing unfortunately will mean very little for this offense. There are too many injuries and too many challenges and far too big of a talent gap for it to get better.
Change is so desperately needed and it cannot come soon enough. I just hope that Kirk and Beth Goetz are getting on the same page about what needs to be done. Because the proof is in the pudding. Kirk feasts on the lower part of the Big Ten and struggles against the Blue-Bloods.
If he wants to contend with them and wants to make the playoff every couple of years, he needs to finally adapt.
Time will tell what’s in store for this program going into the NEW college football landscape. But despite what happened on Saturday and despite all the money I lost on .5 and a 22.5 spread... one thing is for certain: With Phil Parker and LeVar Woods at the helm, Iowa is 2⁄3 of the way to being a consistent playoff contender. It is entirely up to Kirk Ferentz to either reinvent himself and this program to step foot into this new era and take their spot inside that Top-12. or he will be left behind and we will continue to go into December with a nothing-burger of a Citrus Bowl to play for and nothing else.
The jury is still out on what direction the ol’ ball coach is going ultimately go... but if you give me until Saturday, I’m sure I’ll eventually sell myself on the fact that Kirk knows he can have a special stretch to end his career if he just lets go of his offensive ideals and lets someone take over and recruit for their own system. Will they have to be conservative-ish? 100%. But having a Top-75 offense with this developmental/powerhouse program that churns out quality special team units and defenses will get you there. It will help you beat these teams that continue to leave us all begging for more.
We’re so close Kirk. You’re so close. GO FOR IT. TAKE IT. And maybe, just maybe, on Any Given Saturday, you might just find yourself winning a playoff game and then maybe another playoff game and maybe, just maybe, another playoff game.
And then, one day, you’ll leave this Iowa program in a better place and you’ll be remembered forever.