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Why Not Iowa?

By any reasonable measure of success, the Hawkeyes are having a great season. You can say otherwise, but you're just lying to yourself.

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

A man by the name of Bill Parcells once famously said "You are what your record says you are". Here's the deal, folks. Iowa is 10-0 right now. They are an undefeated team. They are an undefeated team from a power-5 conference. By any reasonable measure, they are a good team, if not a great team. They haven't proven to be an elite team yet, but that's ok. If everything about this team was exactly the same, but they were called "Wisconsin" or "Michigan State" or "Stanford", the narrative would be "can they actually win the national championship?" instead of "can they actually go 12-0?". That's ok too. The good thing about having a 4 team playoff instead of a 2 team playoff is that nobody really has to worry about how much ESPN talks about them anymore. I'm not saying you have to like Iowa, or that people should pay more attention to Iowa, or even that Iowa will win the Big Ten and/or go to the playoffs. I'm saying that if you think Iowa is a bad team or undeserving of anything, you're wrong (and probably jealous, but we'll get to that).

I don't want to pay any attention to this, but I feel like I have to bring it up so let's just rip this band-aid off right now: Colin Cowherd is an idiot. This is a man who gave a terrible interview to Jim Harbaugh and then hung up on him for answering his stupid questions with well-deserved indifference. He also once claimed that Sean Taylor brought his murder upon himself. He's a professional troll who gets off on the attention he receives when he says he wouldn't put Iowa in his top-30. His biggest argument for not doing so is that they don't have nearly as many 4 and 5 star recruits as Alabama and Ohio State.

Glossing over the fact that recruiting classes are not an accepted tiebreaker, this is a profoundly stupid point due to the fact that Iowa is well known as one of the nation's biggest assembly lines for NFL players. Talent is talent, who cares whether you found it that way or made it in the weight room? Yes, Ohio State would have a significant edge talent-wise, but it's less "MonStars vs Toon Squad in the 1st half" and more "Ewok village vs AT-ST". No doubt you have us outgunned and are capable of murdering us, but that doesn't mean we can't ruin your day by tripping you up with a pile of logs. He can scoff at Iowa's schedule all he wants and point out that the Hawkeyes are just winning games they are supposed to be winning, but being favored in every game... isn't that the point of a good team? So stop paying attention to Cowherd, hawk fans. Lord knows nobody else is.  Also, Colin Cowherd is racist against Dominicans.

Iowa's best win so far was against Wisconsin (though Northwestern was probably more impressive if you consider the margin of victory). I know it's just one game from a 12 game schedule that nobody has any respect for, but it doesn't make any sense to say "Iowa is soft" and then just dismiss this win. Wisconsin is usually a very good football team, and this year isn't any different. Badgers: We hate you here in Iowa, but dammit we respect you. Ok we don't respect you at all, but that's not the point. Everyone is content sit there and say "well Stave lost that game". If Stave is in a position to lose the game in only one or two plays, it means the team was getting beat in a lot of different ways that were out of his control. But Stave didn't lose it, he was just a visitor to the living nightmare hosted by Nate Meier and Desmond King known as "Iowa's Defense".

I know the state of Wisconsin thought the Big Ten West was just going to be a big dollhouse full of toys for them to play with while they waited for the championship game to start each year... but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. The Badgers 2 losses are to top-5 teams with a combined 19-1 record; maybe it's possible that they aren't having an off year and beating them should matter as much as it ever has. After Michigan-Ohio State this is the best rivalry in the league (in my humble opinion), and to pooh-pooh the outcome is to do that rivalry a disservice. The Iowa-Wisconsin rivalry turning into a de facto divisional championship game is a dream come true. Since when is it ok that Wisconsin is part of the "nobody" in "Iowa ain't played nobody"?

I'm not going to spend any more time defending Iowa's schedule, mostly because anyone can make a valid argument supporting either side, and it doesn't really matter this year apart from a pride standpoint. In the unlikely event that Iowa beats Purdue AND Nebraska AND Ohio State/Michigan State/Michigan, they're going to the playoffs. Honestly, if we were still using the BCS system, I would probably be sitting her begging and/or crying for people to pay attention to the Hawkeyes, but now I really don't care. Let's say Iowa doesn't head to their bowl game with 12 or 13 wins: This has still been an amazing year.

A 10 or 11 win season was well beyond the expectations of even the most blindly optimistic predictions for this year. 10 wins is a pretty good benchmark of a successful season. Iowa still has plenty to prove to everyone, but they've already proven that they're a very good football team.

I'm not making any bold predictions about Iowa yet. They're winning convincingly; this isn't 2009 where every single game was a coin flip that came up heads. I realize that they could still lose any week, but this year they're playing from ahead and not behind. I don't remember anything like this as an Iowa fan; 2002 and 2009 were great years, but they both built on success from the previous year. Apart from maybe the Northwestern game, Iowa had no success last year. Iowa last year was as disappointing a 7-win team as possible, and left little to build upon. The 2015 season has come seemingly out of nowhere. In the last 4 years I've seen the Big Ten expand to 12 (and later 14) teams to add a championship game, and the NCAA implement a playoff system to give all the Rodney Dangerfield teams of the world a chance. Iowa has had middling success in this period, so mentally I defaulted to the idea that greatness was only for the big brands.

But this year made me think: why not Iowa? Iowa is 1 win away from the Big Ten championship game, and that isn't even their celling. 2 more wins probably takes Iowa at least to Pasadena. 3 wins earns a spot in the playoffs. 4 wins earns a chance at a national championship. I realize the odds of winning the Big Ten and being one of the final 4 teams are still crazy small, but consider that Vegas had Iowa as a 500/1 championship contender in August and now they sit in a position where the Rose Bowl is a consolation prize and you'll understand how good this team is and how far they've come since getting their clock cleaned by the Garbage Pail Kids of the S.E.C. last January.

I'm probably wasting my breath (or keystrokes, as it were) at this point. My opinion doesn't matter any more or any less than yours does. The only thing that matters is wins, and Iowa has a lot of them. And they can still get a lot more. As unlikely as it is that Iowa will run the table and take a shot at the national championship game, that scenario is still very much alive. I mean why not Iowa?

The Hawkeyes spent the better part of the last 5 years slowly fading away into a B1G "also ran", and suddenly they have a bigger target on their back than anyone else in the conference. Week after week we get to hear how excited our schedule's next "W" is to be playing Iowa; everyone wants to be the first to beat Iowa. They want to "ruin" Iowa's season. Nobody cared about beating 7-6 Iowa, at least not for reasons greater than the usual "winning football games is good" ones. That's because 7-6 Iowa was a bad team. Present-day Iowa is a very good team, maybe even a great one. And they have a chance to be legendary. After all, why not Iowa?