Questions Without Answers. Iowa's blowout loss in the Rose Bowl leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Is Desmond King returning? (Bruce Feldman jumped the gun, but he's still probably right; odds are that King turns pro.) Does C.J. Beathard need surgery, and will he be available for spring practice? (Iowa's basically said he'll need some sort of surgery for his groin injury, but maybe things have changed.) Where is Iowa going to find replacements for seven (or eight) departing starters? (Probably not in this year's recruiting class, because it's Iowa.)
The biggest question, at least in the immediate aftermath of the season: What are we supposed to think of this season? There's no doubt the regular seasons was an absolute success. Iowa went undefeated through a regular season for the first time in program history, won the Big Ten West with a week to go, took back all four traveling trophies, briefly entered the conversation for a Playoff spot, and re-established itself in the Wisconsin/Michigan State tier of the conference.
But Iowa couldn't get the one stop it needed to win its first Big Ten title in eleven years, falling to Michigan State (yes, they did it in a manner that earned them much-deserved respect, but it's a loss nonetheless). The Rose Bowl was basically over before it began, be it due to gameplan or execution. So what does 12-2 Iowa mean?
As Marc Morehouse writes, for the team itself, the Rose Bowl loss didn't change much:
The Hawkeyes played in their first Rose Bowl in 25 years. The most common question in the postgame was how this team might now be perceived after reaching a historic precipice and then landing with a thud.
"A game like this doesn't define an entire season," defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson said. "We played well the entire year. We could've played better today. Looking back, there's nothing to be upset about."
So, 12-0 season and 0-2 postseason. You can debate whether or not it's glorious or something short of it.
Ferentz's message to his players after the game was to not allow the loss to define the season. That thought echoed. In the Rose Bowl lockerroom, in the last moments the 2015 Hawkeyes would spend together, they listened to their coach.
There were two narratives with this team: The external narrative that Iowa was a product of an easy schedule alone, and the internal narrative that a renewed focus from both the coaches and players, coupled with leadership intent on winning rather than NFL Draft placement, were enough to overcome any talent. The loss to Michigan State felt like a reinforcement of the internal storyline, with Iowa proving itself worthy of the spot it held. The Stanford loss (and Michigan State's blowout loss to Alabama) is going to be taken by anyone inclined to believe the national narrative as living proof that Iowa has been exposed.
Personally, with a few days to process what happened in Pasadena, the Rose Bowl result didn't mean much of anything. Obviously, Iowa's gameplan against Stanford was flawed, and its offense hadn't adapted well since Minnesota. Whatever. Doesn't matter. This team won twelve regular season games and convinced me to drive a few hundred miles and spend a few hundred dollars to watch them play for a Big Ten championship. It was a return to 2002, and the Orange Bowl blowout doesn't make me think any less of that team, either.
And now, to Hoopyball. In case you missed it, Iowa basketball beat the presumed top two teams in the Big Ten last week, and the Hawkeyes are suddenly in the national conversation in a way they haven't been in at least two years. Iowa should be firmly back in the AP Top 25 when it is released later today, and the Hawkeyes more than deserve it.
The lingering question in the wake of Iowa's one-sided victory over top-ranked Michigan State on Thursday night was what exactly the Hawkeyes proved by winning. Were they Big Ten contenders like they appeared to be that night or did they merely take advantage of the vulnerability of a Spartans team weakened by the loss of injured star Denzel Valentine?
It's probably too soon to draw sweeping conclusions one way or the other, but Iowa certainly validated itself further on Saturday night. The Hawkeyes rallied from a 17-point halftime deficit and defeated 14th-ranked Purdue 70-63 in West Lafayette.
ESPN's C.L. Brown named Fran McCaffery as coach of the week, and Iowa has moved up to No. 11 in Kenpom's overall rankings. Pomeroy now has Iowa projected at 14-4 in the Big Ten, good enough to share the regular season title with Michigan State. Iowa hasn't gone 14-4 in the Big Ten since 1986-87. It's early, but for those of us that have been focused on the football program, coming home to a basketball team that might also be far better than expected is a welcome sight indeed.
Iowa football has one less thing to worry about in 2016: Dave Aranda, the absurdly good defensive coordinator at Wisconsin. Aranda's joining Les Miles' staff at LSU next year.
John Gasaway writes that Bo Ryan was the most influential basketball coach of his era, with Ryan's zero-turnover brand of basketball becoming the standard for college programs. And as hard as it is to give the loathsome Ryan any credit, Gasaway is probably right.
An mgoblog contributor explains the day-to-day logistics of a recruiting visit. For those not fortunate enough to be a top-notch Division I football or basketball recruit, it's a good rundown of how the pitch is made and what players generally care about.