60 Minutes In and Iowa’s Season Already Feels Hopeless

By Tom Clos on September 5, 2022 at 6:01 pm
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The headline of this piece may sound a bit rash after one game, especially since Iowa did, in fact, "win" Saturday (if that’s what we want to call it). So I’d like to put the use of the word hopeless into context.

First I want to state that this piece was originally supposed to be a reaction to Charlie Jones' hilariously good debut with Purdue and a comparison to what Iowa was missing without him or, **gasp**, how they were somehow better off with Jones in West Lafayette.

But after the Hawkeyes' offensive offensive performance against South Dakota State that article was impossible to write. You could've put Jerry Rice out there in black and gold and it wouldn't matter. Everything was just terrible.

So let's audible to something more apropos concerning the 2022 Hawkeyes.

Iowa entered this season with 14 returning starters, a defensive unit we knew was going to be at least close to great, and a third-year starting senior at quarterback. The program was fresh off a 10-win Big Ten West championship campaign and features a tough, but I’d say manageable schedule given that it gets both Michigan and divisional-favorite Wisconsin at home.

The expectation this season is Big Ten Championship or bust.

And after Iowa's whatever you want to call that Saturday against South Dakota State it's pretty evident this team isn't winning a Big Ten Championship.

And it's in this respect that the 2022 season already feels hopeless.

Full disclosure, I was very high on this Hawkeye team entering this past weekend. I didn't understand how, with all the program was returning, including an offense that had to be better (IT JUST HAD TO BE), Iowa was unranked in both polls and predicted to finish a distant second to Wisconsin in the Big Ten West. 

Oh, I see it now.

OK, please make it stop.

One other thing of note. Before we pile on the "Spencer Petras needs to be benched" train, which is true, it's important to note that the Hawkeyes' offensive line turned in one of the most athletically offensive performances I've seen maybe in the Ferentz era. The trenches were always this program's "old faithful" yet the offensive side was downright atrocious and they should not be let off the hook just because it's more fun to blast the hell out of the quarterback.

I defy anyone to go back and watch the tape of this one on the offensive side of the ball. And if you're brave enough to do it, be sure to bring a drink or seven.

All in all, I’m quite confident the Hawkeyes will win at least six games this season based off their talent alone and their final record will probably be closer to 7-5/8-4. After all, the defense looks to be shaping up as one of the best units Iowa City has seen in the Kirk Ferentz era. Additionally, if Tory Taylor continues to be the punting deity he’s been since arriving at Iowa, placing kicks inside the opponent’s five yard line with ease, said defense will be in great position to put some points on the board as we saw this past weekend.

But “punting is winning” will actually only win you so much as we saw a year ago. It also helped last year that Iowa had what turned out to be a relatively light schedule and an offense that would actually make teams pay when given a short field, at least over the first half of the season.

The 2021 Hawkeyes routinely turned takeaways into touchdowns, especially early in the season in wins over Indiana, at Iowa State and especially at Maryland. That Petras-led offense actually scored 55 (!!!!) points on the road in College Park. An offensive output such as that seems like a lifetime and a half ago.

Through one week the only thing this Iowa offense looks capable of is giving us all radiation poisoning.

And judging by our legendary head coach's unwillingness to see any of these issues for various reasons that have been beaten to death for years now (LINK, LINK, LINK) it's clear there should be nothing but nepotism pessimism for at least the rest of this season, and perhaps beyond.

If you've been an Iowa fan for at least two years you probably see how this thing goes year after year.

Now ask yourself this: After only 60 minutes of football doesn’t the rest of this season already look like it’s going to play out in the most predictable way ever?

Let's see:

  • This week the Iowa State game will be a toss-up and, if the Hawkeyes prevail it’ll probably be like 10-6 or something. They could easily lose though.
  • They’ll beat Nevada and probably find a little offense as well as sleep-walk to a ridiculously ugly win at Rutgers (something in the 13-10 range) that makes you question why you weren't outside doing anything more productive such as washing your car in a thunderstorm and mowing your lawn in the snow.
  • Then, at 4-0/3-1, we’ll all get jacked up for what could be a primetime showdown with a top-6ish, undefeated Michigan team. Kinnick will be striped out and rocking, the rabid crowd will cause some back-to-back false starts for the Wolverine offense. . .and then Iowa’s offense will look like Iowa’s offense and the Hawkeyes will lose 13-3.
  • And then the rest of the season will be nothing but toss-ups to mediocre/bad Big Ten West teams, outside of Charlie Jones’ 7-touchdown performance against Iowa at Purdue of course and a trip to Columbus where Ohio State will handle the Hawkeyes 24-3.
  • Iowa will somehow still find a way to beat Nebraska LOL, but 8-4/7-5 here we come.

But hey maybe Iowa fans can finally get to go to the Music City Bowl!

And the only thing keeping this season from cratering into a 4-8/3-9 malaise is the greatness of the Hawkeye defense. This unit is shaping up to be so good Iowa will likely be competitively in every single game this season, no matter how bad the offense is doing.

Conversely, the offense is so bad they'll leave Iowa open to potentially losing every single game this season, no matter how dominant the defense is performing.

Sounds a bit like last year, doesn't it?

Then again maybe I'm wrong. After all, Saturday's winning formula sure seems like a sustainable strategy:

It's clear that nothing has changed since last season. Actually, the offense has somehow gotten worse over the offseason which felt impossible less than a week ago. The Hawkeyes have a Big Ten Championship-caliber defense but are wasting it thanks to a junior high-school caliber offense, an aging, stubborn head coach and an offensive coordinator who is hardly qualified to stream Iowa football on his Roku, let alone actually be calling plays from the sidelines.

Petras finished with a 1.1 QBR against an FCS school and THIS IS A REAL QUOTE PEOPLE. 

Even after a win Saturday, it's hard not to see Ferentz burp out that stanza in the postgame and feel that this season already feels utterly hopeless.

YEP.

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