If you haven’t done so already, take a look at John’s awesome response to Saturday’s game against NDSU. He pretty much nailed all the feelings I was having, and even reminded me of a few reasons to be optimistic, or at least not dejected. He put it much more eloquently than I could.
So... about Saturday... luckily I get to just look at the numbers right now. H.A.W.K.E.Y.E.S. felt very very confident in an Iowa win against the Bison. 95% confident, to be exact, predicting a score of 33-19. As one keen reader pointed out, the 14 point difference between the teams was entirely due to a correction that I chose to include that was due entirely to NDSU being an FCS team. Otherwise the prediction would have been 26-26 and H.A.W.K.E.Y.E.S. would have declared that the game could go either way. That’s what I get for not trusting the computer because the game certainly was far too close for the entire 60 minutes. North Dakota State, despite not finding any success offensively in the first half, did to Iowa exactly what I predicted Iowa would do to the Bison: wear them down with physicality. North Dakota State looked and played exactly how Iowa wants to. In fact, after watching Saturday’s buzz-killer, I think we can safely say that if Iowa played against itself, Iowa would lose. What I mean to say is this: Iowa is not really able to stand up to a team that runs Iowa’s own game plan offensively and defensively.
There are a few things to look back on and feel a little better about. Firstly, and I’m sure that many of you will disagree with me, Iowa’s defense was just fine. They only allowed 17 points while staying on the field for 36 minutes. If Iowa held all of its opponents to only 17 points in a game then I would not worry about this season at all. Except if we play Wisconsin or Michigan State. Because 17 points would be considered a rout in those games. And secondly, I think we can be very optimistic about the future at QB. Nathan Stanley stepped into a high-pressure situation with the game on the line, not knowing if Beathard would be able to come back and with little time to prepare. And he performed admirably. More than admirably. The future is bright.
And now we begin the conference slate. And we get to start it off against Rutgers. I can think of no better target upon which to take out our pent-up frustration than a hapless Scarlet Knight team. A team that Iowa has... never played before? Not even once? Are you sure? Let me double check that. Nope, not even once in the entire 118 seasons of Iowa football have the Hawkeyes faced the school that essentially won the first ever intercollegiate football game back in 1869? Right.
So far this season Rutgers has faced one good team (Washington), one really bad FCS team that was still looking for walk-ons to fill out their roster, and New Mexico, whose only win this season was a 48-21 game over South Dakota. That said, Rutgers has faced a tougher schedule than Iowa and was able to handily beat their FCS opponent (despite trailing by two touchdowns early in the game). Right now H.A.W.K.E.Y.E.S. is a little concerned about Iowa. However, despite that, the computer still sees an Iowa victory. But the confidence level is pretty low.
Now, a few cautionary notes. This week begins a strong de-weighting of 2015 data. This means that more than 40% of the prediction is driven by the first three games, including Rutgers’ pasting Howard for 379 rushing yards and 177 against New Mexico. When they played against ranked Washington, they put up a much more pedestrian 136 rushing yards on 48 attempts, good for 2.8 per carry. I don’t think Iowa will allow over 150 yards on the ground to Rutgers, and I expect the offense to be much more able to exert its will over a smaller Rutgers front seven.
I know that second-guessing the computer last week led to disaster, but I firmly believe that the computer is just overreacting to Rutgers outlier game against Howard. This one may be closer than we’d like it to be, but I think H.A.W.K.E.Y.E.S. is playing things a little too conservatively.