Iowa fans: don’t yell at me, I’m always a pessimist heading into the season.
Iowa haters: continue yelling at me, I don’t have any control over your actions.
I. Case History/Opening Statement
A. Case History
The 2021 Iowa Hawkeyes will forever be seared into my brain as the most excruciating 10-win team I’ve ever witnessed. Iowa waltzed to a 10-2 finish in the regular season. Emotional, high profile wins against Iowa State and Penn State were offset by excruciating back to back losses against Purdue and Wisconsin.
Iowa was propelled into the conference championship game in the last week of the season after a dramatic win over Nebraska (and some help from the Gophers who randomly decided to out-big boy Wisconsin), where Michigan swiftly and thoroughly disposed of them like a week 1 cupcake. They followed that up with one final flaccid offensive performance in a Citrus Bowl loss to Kentucky.
The common theme in all 4 losses, and most of the 10 wins if I’m being honest, was otherworldly defense and special teams units doing everything they could to drag the offense across the finish line in a body bag. Because Kirk Ferentz has this exact perversion down to a science, it worked far more often than it didn’t.
Just how bad was the offense? They were 13th in the conference in total yards per game (less than 300 lol), and 10th in total points per game. They converted just 34% of third downs. The quarterback situation was never quite sorted out, with Spencer Petras losing his starting job for a few games before Alex Padilla lost it right back to Spencer.
Even amongst a fanbase that’s grown used to watching lifeless offenses, things seemed extra bleak. While 10 wins is usually cause for celebration in Iowa City, the fans and beat writers were largely left wondering “what if?”. What if Iowa, for just this year, could have fielded an offense that was average?
B. Opening Statement
If Iowa can keep their defensive and special teams production at or around the same level, while finding some way to be able to move the ball and get first downs in a way that’s comparable to your average Big Ten team (NOT A HIGH BAR) then I think 10 wins would be the floor for this team. However, given that this is Kirk and Brian Ferentz’s 24th and 6th years in their current jobs, this “writer’s” personal forecast for the season is somewhat more pedestrian.
Iowa is lumbering into 2022 with Spencer Petras and Alex Padilla again as the #1 and #2 quarterbacks, along with several key departures — most notably Tyler Linderbaum, Tyler Goodson, and Tyrone Tracy. Barring massive philosophical changes from the most stubborn HC/OC combo on the planet, the only improvement we could possibly see is going to have to come from guys like Petras, tight end Sam LaPorta, and running back Gavin Williams taking big strides in their development.
I think we’re in for another season of the same old offensive stagnation, except now Iowa has to play Ohio State and Michigan. There are two big chokepoints the Hawkeyes will have to work through to succeed on offense. First, quarterback play is nowhere near where it needs to be, even by B1G West standards. Iowa desperately another quarterback that’s got that dawg in him.
Let’s give Spencer the benefit of the doubt and assume he’s made some massive strides in the last 8 months: that still leaves the issue of our second chokepoint, the offensive coordinator. Brian Ferentz’s plan for improving on a job that left the Hawkeyes with the 121st best offense in FBS last year? Double-down on how hard the quarterback’s job is to make sure the less experienced, more athletic, more exciting underclassman doesn’t create too much of a QB controversy. In fairness to Brian, Iowa hasn’t exactly been an offensive juggernaut at any point in his dad’s tenure, so I’m not here to argue over whether or not he should still have his job. My point is that history tells us that massive improvements on offense aren’t all that likely.
All this to say that anything more than 8 wins is a significant overachievement in this
analyst’s writer’s random fan with a platform’s mind.
A. Evidence Already Presented
Iowa Hawkeyes Tractor Pull and Cocktail Party Preview // B1G 2022
B1G 2022: The Iowa Offense, I guess?
An Environmentally Conscious Look At The Iowa Hawkeyes 2022 Defense
Call It A Hunch: Iowa Hawkeyes Football Will Win Around 8 Games In 2022
2022 Iowa Hawkeyes Football Schedule, Games, Record Predictions, Factory Farms
B1G 2022 // We all hate Iowa
B. What We Can Learn From Pop Culture
How long can the Hawkeye defense and special teams drag the bloated corpse of an offense around before they’re exposed? Will it be an innocent bystander that just happens to notice (Rutgers) or not until they wander past the trained eye of a cop (Ohio State)? Eventually that body is going to start to smell, so it’s a matter of when they get found out and not if.
III. Schedule of Events
IV. Emotional Plea
First let me address the team. We the fans are simple creatures. We don’t need this team to run a high flying air raid that racks up 600 yards per game. We don’t need to average 50 points a game.
Sure that would be nice, but all you need to do to make us happy is be competent. Don’t go 3 and out ten times per game. Convert a third down every once in a while. It’s ok to run your predictable and boring zone runs on 70% of the snaps as long as you’re keeping the other offense off the field for a little bit.
Playing the field position game isn’t usually fun to watch, and us fans have learned to accept that, but it can work (as Kirk Ferentz has proved time and time again over the last quarter century) as long as the offense can eat up time of possession and get some timely first downs.
What we won’t stand for is watching you run into a brick wall over and over again. Sometimes you have to change your scheme up in the middle of a game because something isn’t working. If you keep rolling the dice on a play and it never pays off, maybe stop running that play. You can insist that everything comes down to execution all you want, but when something isn’t working, it isn’t working.
I will never understand in my entire life why this coaching staff is the only one in the country that doesn’t care if their opponent knows exactly which play is coming next. This was more of a rant than a plea, I know you aren’t about to change things up after 24 years, I just want you to appreciate the fans that keep voluntarily coming back to sit through the same torturous game plan every single year.
Now my plea to the fans: be cool to the players. I know the Spencer Petras era hasn’t been particularly fun to watch when we have the ball, but you have to understand that for all your (mostly valid) criticisms of his play, the coaches have never put him in a position to succeed here. Whatever frustrations you’re feeling, I can promise the players feel it a hundred times more.
Spencer seems like an incredibly cool and likeable guy, and he’s playing a dumb game for free to entertain you. If you’re mad at the team’s performance, please direct all your concerns to Brian Ferentz. He’s a grown ass man with a publicly listed email address getting paid $900,000/year to do this to you, I promise you it’s much more satisfying to yell at him.
Ok “writers” let’s see some predictions:
I think that’s probably fair. The game at Ohio State is probably a loss, and while some Kinnick night game magic isn’t out of the question, I simply don’t see this team beating both Michigan and Wisconsin. Iowa probably loses at least one game they shouldn’t (Northwestern, Purdue, Nebraska, etc) and we may get tripped up by a team that ends up much better than they’re supposed to be and takes us into a rock fight (Illinois or Minnesota maybe?)
I’ll leave you with my official prediction from the Iowa Potluck article:
I’ll say we drop 1 of the first 4 (Rutgers could be a tough away game, or perhaps our number has finally come up with Iowa State). They’ll go 1-1 against Michigan and Illinois. I think Illinois is on the upswing, and Harbaugh will most likely have to play a night game at Kinnick, so do with that information what you will. Their other losses will be to Ohio State and wisconsin, so give me 8-4.
How does Iowa finish the regular season in 2022
This poll is closed
5-7 or worse - the wheels finally came off
9-3 or 10-2 - The rest of the B1G West conspires to make the Hawkeyes play Ohio State a second time because it’s funny
11-1 or 12-0, B1G champions and playoff contender - Online Iowa fans become a thousand times more annoying than you could possibly have imagined