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The Rise and Fall and Rise of the Roman Empire

With four days left in the 2015 season, talk is already turning to 2016.  Specifically, could Iowa do it again?  For what it's worth, the team thinks so.

Returning leaders said they're convinced Iowa can avoid another fall.

"The biggest point of emphasis is going to be complacency," sophomore guard Sean Welsh said. "It's very typical for any group of people who have success to become complacent. I'm not concerned, though. I think we've got a group of guys who get it."

In his answer, you'll find one of the many theories as to how the Hawkeyes can do it again. To Welsh, the team must maintain the sharp edge that helped usher them through this season.

Here's the thing that we've learned from the last 17 years of Ferentzball at Iowa: It's all about expectation management.  Yes, Iowa has performed at its best when expectations were low (2002, 2008, 2009), and there's no doubt that expectations have never been lower than they were at the beginning of 2015.  But this is less about external expectations and more about those inside the locker room.

Even after the successes of 2002, Iowa's expectations remained low due to quarterback changes in 2003 and 2004. It wasn't until 2005, when Drew Tate entered his junior season as a returning starter, that expectations ratcheted up, and Iowa didn't respond well.  The expected 2006 return to form was a disaster that began when a loss to Ohio State killed a conference championship run before it had even begun.  The same happened in 2010, when losses to Arizona and Wisconsin meant that the program would not meet its lofty goals with a bunch of returning starters from an Orange Bowl champion.

Kirk Ferentz has been great at destroying low expectations.  But if Iowa is going to do it again next season, he'll have to do something he's never really done before: Find a way to meet high expectations with players who have already been to the mountaintop, to find motivation and focus for a group that no longer has that "nobody believes in us" chip on its shoulder.

Iowa's California Adventure

The Rose Bowl -- being the Rose Bowl and not, say, a bowl game named after an online tax preparation program -- comes with different public relations expectations.  For instance, there are trips to Disney's California Adventure!

Disney || #Hawkeyes : @brayphoto @theiowahawkeyes

A photo posted by Iowa Hawkeye Football (@hawkeyefootball) on

Some guys enjoyed the theme park trip more than others.

"I wouldn't have minded just hanging out at the hotel," Krieger Coble said. "It was like the most busy day of the year the day after Christmas. It was a mess."


Running back LeShun Daniels Jr. was in heaven, though.

"I had a great time yesterday. That's for sure," Daniels said. "I'm a really big Star Wars fan, so going around looking at that stuff was pretty sweet."

Put me firmly in the Krieger-Coble camp.

There is also that most wonderful of all Rose Bowl traditions, the Beef Bowl: A one-time prime rib eating competition at Lawry's The Prime Rib in Beverly Hills (Iowa won the first Beef Bowl in 1957) is now just a good reason to eat a bunch of prime rib.  Things have changed since Evy's teams were beefing over the Beef Bowl, though.  It's not even all-you-can-eat anymore:

Drew Ott has moved from first-team all-conference defensive end to Homer Simpson in that episode where he sues the Sea Captain for the all-you-can-eat buffet closing before he was finished.  At least he's moved from raw eggs to prime rib.

Coin Flips

Desmond King says he's still 50/50 on whether he'll return for his senior season.

"I'm thinking about staying. There's a good chance," the Jim Thorpe Award winner as the nation's top defensive back said Monday morning. "But right now I honestly don't know what my decision is. It goes back and forth every time."

Typically, the NFL Draft advisory board that gives players a rough approximation of their potential draft status sends out grades around Christmas, but King hasn't yet received his report.

Things working against Iowa: King is the freaking Thorpe Award winner, and the odds of his status actually improving during a fourth season on campus seem slim; how much better can King actually be?  Things working for Iowa: Even with the Thorpe Award in hand, there could be some skepticism over King as a lock-down cornerback in the NFL.  Iowa cornerbacks are usually bigger than the pros like, and their abilities in run support are slightly discounted in the pro game, so Hawkeyes inevitably end up at safety (Charles Godfrey, Amari Spievey and Micah Hyde are the most recent examples).  If that moves King's grade below the second round, he might well end up back on campus.

The other thing working in Iowa's favor: King didn't redshirt, and so he's only been at Iowa for three years.  Which means he hasn't graduated yet.  And that's a big deal to King, and a huge deal to his mom.

His mom, Yvette Powell, wants him to stay in school. He would become the first member of his family to graduate from college if he can complete his degree in mass communications, but he's only a third-year junior....

"Yeah, mom. I mean, she wants me to stay. At the same time, she wants what's best for me. So it's a 50-50 chance. I don't know which way I could go with it. It's pretty hard."

Dollars to donuts, I still think he ends up turning pro.  But it's not as certain as one might think.

Other Stuff

Chad Leistikow profiles Brian Ferentz and asks him the question: Are you going to be the next head coach at Iowa?

"That's what we do. ... I kind of like it. We're a sentimental state, and we're old-fashioned about hard work," he says. "(Me being the next coach), that's a natural, real easy thing for people to talk about, because it's a happy story.

"It's a lot of fun to talk about outside the building, but I wouldn't hold your breath on all that stuff."

You can spend all day talking about playcalling and schemes, but at the end of the day, football is sometimes simply about making the guy across from you quit.  As Morehouse writes, both Stanford's offensive line and Iowa's defense are pretty good at doing that.

Big Ten Powerhouse looks at Iowa basketball as conference play begins (and hey, conference play begins tonight against Michigan State!)

WWE apparently knew that BHGP was coming back to Monday Night Raw this week, because Iowa football got a rare in-match shout-out from the incomparable Xavier Woods.

Inside NU compiled an oral history of Northwestern's 1995 Rose Bowl season that was heavy on stories of Hayden Fry running up the score.  But one member of that team, Sam Valensizi, begged off getting too crazy about Fry.  The post's author, Henry Bushnell, told us why:

The post is absolutely worth the read, though, in no small part because that Northwestern team followed much of the same path to the Rose Bowl as this year's Iowa squad.

The only reason Iowa State isn't on this list is that nobody can find one of their recruits.