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THE STATISTICALLY IMPROBABLE PATH TO A 12-0 SEASON FOR IOWA FOOTBALL

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Strap in, it's gonna be a bumpy ride.

"I know, I can't believe this season, either!"
"I know, I can't believe this season, either!"
Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN's FPI rankings say that Iowa has a 0.0% chance of winning out (which would mean going 12-0 at this point).  The esteemed Mr. Jacobi said the same thing in his month-by-month breakdowns of Iowa's schedule this season. And yet... if there's an infinite number of possibilities in this big old multiverse of ours, that means that somewhere there's a universe out there were Iowa does run the stable, statistically be damned.  As luck would have it, I managed to tune my cross-dimensional viewfinder into that universe's version of BHGP (Black Heart Gold Pantz -- with a z because they're edgier than us) to find out what happens.  (My cross-dimensional viewfinder also happens to have a time travel setting, as it turns out.)

So what does a season where Iowa goes 12-0 look like?  Glad you asked!

GAME 1: ILLINOIS STATE (Iowa City, IA)

Iowa and Illinois State engage in a back-and-forth shootout, with neither defense able to slow the other side down much. Iowa, in particular, has few answers for the Redbirds' lethal backfield combination of Tre Roberson and Marshaun Coprich. Iowa establishes a running game in the second half and opens up an 7-point lead late in the fourth quarter behind a 47-yard Jordan Canzeri TD run.  Roberson leads the Redbirds down the field for a tying score, but Iowa holds on after Drew Ott forces a fumble (recovered by Josey Jewell) on the Iowa 10-yard line.  Iowa escapes Illinois State, 38-31.

GAME 2: IOWA STATES (Ames, IA)

Brimming with confidence after their win over Illinois State, Iowa heads few hours west to take on the "other" ISU and summarily cruises to a lopsided victor-- haha nope.  In a tight, sloppy game marred by turnovers and costly penalties on both sides, Iowa falls behind 22-20 with 90 seconds to go in the fourth quarter after Quenton Bundrage hauls in a touchdown pass from Sam Richardson.  But C.J. Beathard quickly guides the Iowa offense down the field (aided by a costly pass interference call when an Iowa State defender puts Tevaun Smith in a bearhug and won't release him) and sets up Marshall Koehn's game-winning 24-yard field goal as time expires.  Iowa wins, 23-22.

GAME 3: PITT (Iowa City, IA)

Iowa returns home for a night game with Pitt buzzing from their last-second victory over the Cyclones.  Unfortunately, Beathard eats some bad sushi the day of the game, sending him to nearby UIHC with food poisoning.  The game turns into a running back duel, with LeShun Daniels surprisingly managing to just out-do Pitt's All-ACC stud, James Conner.  Daniels goes for 184 yards and 3 touchdowns, while Conner racks up 165 yards and a pair of scores.  Iowa escapes with a 20-17 win.

GAME 4: NORTH TEXAS (Iowa City, IA)

Dan McCarney surprises Iowa by going for (and recovering) an onside kick to start the game and the Mean Green pounce on a stunned Iowa to go up 7-0 early.  It all goes pear-shaped for North Texas after that, though, as the Iowa defense settles in and swarms the Mean Green into five turnovers, while Beathard, fully recovered from his food poisoning bout a week earlier, throws for a career-best 295 yards through the air and Daniels and Canzeri both top 100 yards rushing.  Iowa cruises to an easy win, 41-10, to complete a 4-0 non-conference mark.

GAME 5: WISCONSIN (Madison, WI)

Having drilled for the Badgers running game for months, Iowa's front seven plays the best game of their careers, stifling Corey Clement and holding Wisconsin to just 147 yards on the ground. Joel Stave struggles to move the Badger offense through the air, throwing four interceptions -- three to Jordan Lomax.  Derrick Mitchell, the Melvin Gordon play-actor from a year ago, has his breakout performance, rattling off a handful of big runs to lead Iowa with 137 yards and a pair of touchdowns.  Iowa shocks the Badgers, 27-13.

GAME 6: ILLINOIS (Iowa City, IA)

Bill Cubit's hopes of channeling the spirits of his former Western Michigan teams that came into Iowa City and emerged with wins are dashed when Wes Lunt breaks his hand on the third play of the game when it gets trapped underneath Jaleel Johnson.  The Smiths, Tevaun and Jerminic, each have 100-yard receiving games and Iowa gets a comfortable 31-14 win.

GAME 7: NORTHWESTERN (Evanston, IL)

A driving rainstorm makes it impossible to see more than 5 yards downfield, rendering the passing game ineffective for both teams.  The slippery ball leads to a host of turnovers -- Iowa coughs the ball up 5 times.  All hope seems lost when Northwestern takes over with only minutes to go and a 21-17 lead, only for Cole Fisher to force a Justin Jackson fumble, which is recovered and returned for a touchdown by Ben Niemann.  Iowa pulls out a 24-21 victory.

BYE WEEK

In a minor upset, no Iowa players are arrested or injured over the bye week!

GAME 8: MARYLAND (Iowa City, IA)

Iowa comes out sluggish after the bye week, with Beathard throwing a first-quarter pick-six to Maryland CB Will Likely to give the Terps an early lead.  But Maryland loses starting QB Daxx Garman in the second quarter when Drew Ott mistakes Garman's pure white helmet for an egg and tries to crack it open.  Ott incurs a personal foul penalty, but Garman suffers a concussion and has to lead the game.  Iowa is able to ease to a 30-17 win after that incident.

GAME 9: INDIANA (Bloomington, IN)

Kevin Wilson's Hoosiers come out gunning, with Nate Sudfeld completing his first 14 passes of the game.  The Hoosiers open up a 24-10 halftime lead and are on the verge of making it 31-10 in the third quarter when Desmond King intercepts a ball on the goal line and takes it back 100 yards for a touchdwon.  Minutes later, he returns a punt 69 yards for another touchdown, tying the game.  Iowa and Indiana trade a few scores and Indiana goes up 37-34 late in the fourth quarter, when -- there's that man again! -- King strikes again, returning a kickoff return 74 yards and settling Iowa up with good field position.  The entire stadium is flummoxed when King enters the field on offense as a decoy; he draws the defense's entire attention, allowing Beathard to walk into the end zone on a bootleg.  Iowa wins a wild 41-37 game that immediately becomes known as "The Des King Game."

GAME 10: MINNESOTA (Iowa City, IA)

Iowa breaks out their Blackout uniforms for their hotly-anticipated night game with Minnesota but the game quickly becomes a defensive struggle, with neither team's offense able to sustain any effective drives against the other.  Turnovers prove crucial, with a Daniels fumble and a Beathard interception setting up 10 Minnesota points, while two Mitch Leidner interceptions and a fumble lead to three Iowa field goals.  Trailing 10-9 in the fourth quarter, Dillon Kidd places a perfect punt that backs Minnesota up to their own 3-yard line.  Ott and Nate Meier crush the tired Minnesota tackles and plant Leidner in the end zone for a safety and an 11-10 Iowa lead.  Minnesota's last gasp drive ends with a Jordan Lomax interception.  The teams combine for nine turnovers in an ugly 11-10 Iowa win.

GAME 11: PURDUE (Iowa City, IA)

Ferentz has the Iowa video staff plaster the brand-new football facility with Admiral Ackbar memes to warn Iowa against the danger of a trap game.  Alas, the good admiral's warnings go unheeded and Iowa looks sluggish out of the gate, giving up a quick 14-0 lead to Purdue.  Beathard asks WWLD -- What Would Lando Do -- and shakes out of his torpor to ram a torpedo -- or a 45-yard touchdown run -- down OMHR's throats.  That sparks the entire Iowa team and they blow out the Boilermakers, 37-17.

GAME 12: NEBRASKA (Lincoln, NE)

Eager to show Nebraska what they missed, Drew Ott plays like a man possessed, recording 12 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and 3 sacks.  He even makes a shocking appearance at fullback and scores a touchdown on a fullback dive.  De'Mornay Pierson-El matches Ott, though, returning a kickoff for a touchdown and taking a bubble screen 85 yards for another touchdown.  Deadlocked at 21-all in the fourth quarter, Iowa takes the lead on a halfback pass from Canzeri to Jake Duzey that leaves everyone in Memorial Stadium flabbergasted.  Tommy Armstrong leads Nebraska into the red zone for a game-tying score, but his attempted touchdwon pass to Pierson-El is intercepted by Greg Mabin.  Iowa holds on for a 28-21 win and a perfect regular season.

And then... well, my viewfinder ran out of batteries before I could see how the Big Ten Championship Game with Ohio State played out.

So yeah -- 12-0!  Nothing to it!  If it can happen in that parallel universe, surely it can happen in ours, too.  Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go look into College Football Playoff tickets...