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The Pessimist’s Guide to the 2023 Iowa Hawkeyes

Prepare for pain!

Syndication: HawkCentral Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

Ah, it’s my favorite time of year. Students are back on campus in Iowa City, which means a few things: 1. Dining downtown just got a lot harder; 2: Driving anywhere near campus just became a whole lot more annoying and 3: Hawkeye football is right around the corner!

And as such, I am preparing myself...for pain, misery, and suffering at the hands of Kirk Ferentz and his son for 12 fall Saturdays.

Let’s just take a quick look back at my pessimist’s guide to last season, shall we? I hate to say I told you so, but boy, I sure told you so. Oh my god, last season was painful. I cannot remember a season like that ever, particularly one that resulted in an 8-5 record and a near appearance at the Big Ten Championship. I’d have rather suffered through another 4-8 season, frankly. That would have meant we didn’t complete waste a year full of an absolutely stacked defense, who was also basically our offense.

But I digress! It’s a new year, and I’ll give Kirk and co. credit that, on paper, some things are going to be different this season. We cannot say that the coaching staff did not put in effort to make improvements on the offensive side of the ball. Cade McNamara is certainly a tremendous improvement over Spencer Petras or Alex Padilla...IF HE CAN STAY HEALTHY.


Obviously, this team also needs drastically improved offensive line play, and stability. Again, on paper, the upgrades are there, especially in bringing on Rusty Feth, who was sculpted by God to be an Iowa offensive lineman.

But with the offensive line and the offense itself, while upgraded on paper, has anything actually changed with the schemes? I don’t care what talented offensive weapons you bring in through the portal in the offseason. If nothing has changed with the offensive scheme and philosophy, it’s not going to really matter. Sure, the talent creates more opportunities for big, explosive plays, but this is father and son Ferentz here. When have we ever seen either of them actually adjust their mindsets in meaningful ways — especially in the course of one offseason? The man’s primary reason for thinking the offense was bad last season was injuries and we all know that wasn’t the only factor.

Let’s also talk about the weight of expectation. No one is expecting this team to seriously compete for a national championship - or even a spot in the CFP. But this is the last year of divisions as we know them in the Big Ten, and truly, most likely Iowa’s last chance to make an appearance in the Big Ten Championship game for awhile (barring major changes). Six of seven home games are sold out. Multiple teams on the schedule are marred in controversy (as are we, but that’s not really part of my pessimism). Things should be setting up well for our success.

And yet...

The only time I’ve looked at Iowa’s schedule and actually thought ‘omg this is a cakewalk’ was 2015, and we know how that turned out (in both very good and very bad ways). I don’t really look at this year like that at all. This is a tough schedule.

Last year, I wrote in this piece that it felt like Iowa State was due a victory in the Cy-Hawk series. This year it’s Minnesota. I love shitting on Minnesota and PJ Fleck as much as the next guy, but Iowa is on an 8 game win streak. That probably ends this year.

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that while Wisconsin, Purdue, and Nebraska will have growing pains with new coaches, at least one, if not two, of those games could end up as losses. It doesn’t take forever to turn around programs in the era of the transfer portal. My money is on a loss to Wisconsin for sure. I wouldn’t put it past Bert and the Illini to improve this year too and sneak in a win on us, either. Add in what I’m pretty convinced will be a loss at Penn State, and you’re looking at 4-5 losses right there.

And last but not least, the 25 points per game elephant on the field. Despite having one of the best defensive units in the country year in and year out, Brian Ferentz has proven so inept at his job that it almost completely eradicates the goodwill of the defense. The fact that Gary Barta and Kirk decided to put in this 25 ppg clause instead of simply moving on, and then in all public media comments made thereafter make it seem like it’s not actually going to be a major emphasis of consideration, makes things all the worse. Last season was so horrific that the Hawkeyes gained the nation’s eye for all the wrong reasons, and that’s not going to go away this season.

So, how to deal with this? Well, for one, as I’m sure I’ve written before, you go in with so little optimism that an exciting season feels like a national championship.

Let’s be real, folks. We’re Iowa fans. Pain is the name of the game. Every year, we find ways to contort our brains into thinking this year will be different. And every year, it’s not. So go into this expecting the worst, and maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

Or, everything will go to shit really fast. OR, it’s just another 8 win season where potential isn’t met.

Such is the way of life of the pessimist. At least the content will be good.