ClassyHistory: Lamenting Iowa's "Fake Big Victories" Under Kirk Ferentz + A Sneak Peek at Iowa MBB

By ClassyHawkeye on November 5, 2021 at 4:50 pm
© Bryon Houlgrave / USA TODAY NETWORK

I'd love for a chance at having a real conversation about the future of Iowa football and whether or not some people should lose their jobs after yet another lost season, but given the current structure of operations in Iowa City it would be an irrelevant discourse.

So I feel it would be more constructive to point out that even when this program seems to be winning something under Kirk Ferentz, in reality it's often won nothing. It's a tenure filled with empty trophy cases (nobody nationally cares about that stupid pig or whatever the hell the Cy-Hawk trophy is supposed to be) and fake big victories.

If we're being brutally honest we shouldn't be shocked about the state of affairs in Iowa football land right now—after all, if there was such thing as a Big Ten Championship Game in 2002 and 2004, it's likely this program wouldn't have a fraction of a conference title to speak of since 1990. But that's not fair to the program or Ferentz as the rules at the time allowed for shared Big Ten titles and so it is what it is. 

It's also not fair to the 2015 Hawkeyes to point out that they caught many breaks en route to a favorable schedule, not to mention also seeing a banged-up Michigan State team and not a much more talented Ohio State squad in Indianapolis. 

And even then the Hawkeyes couldn't finish the final :27.

Instead let's focus on the pair of trademark Iowa wins over the last six seasons, starting one year later with the much hyped 2016 squad. Iowa returned basically everyone from the 12-2 Rose Bowl team including the reigning Thorpe Award winner Desmond King and was the overwhelming favorite to win the Big Ten West.

So, of course, the Hawkeyes promptly started 5-4 with a loss to FCS North Dakota State and was out of the conference race by mid-October. But just when Iowa seemed to have hit rock bottom in a 41-14 debacle at Penn State, Ferentz pulled off one of his patented fake big victories with a shocking 14-13 triumph over #3 Michigan one week later.

Keith Duncan nailed the kick heard 'round Iowa City (at least that night), the fans rushed the field and times were good again at Kinnick Stadium. . .or wait, Iowa finished 8-5 with a 30-3 disastrous loss to Florida in the Outback Bowl.

The Hawkeyes win over Michigan was about as impactful as their 28-0 victory at Illinois the following week. In other words, not very much.

Or how about one year later in 2017?

Yesterday was the four-year anniversary of Iowa's shocking 55-24 upset over #5 Ohio State—a game Hawkeye fans are still clinging to pretty much every day. Amani Hooker had a pick-six on the first play from scrimmage, Josh Jackson added three more of his own, and Nate Stanley threw five touchdowns in the Hawkeye romp.

In a vacuum it was a fun time had by all.

In the big picture though, it was nothing more than a cute newspaper headline.

An admittedly young Iowa team already had three conference losses and was out of the Big Ten West race by the time the Buckeyes arrived in Iowa City. That still doesn't excuse what happened the following week.

Iowa posted just 66 yards of total offense in a 38-14 loss at Wisconsin.


And here we are, four years later and the Hawkeyes followed up what seemed like a launching-point victory over #4 Penn State with back-to-back losses to the Boilermakers and the Badgers. In Madison Iowa posted 156 yards of offense but was never really in the game.

Sounds A LOT like that 2017 game.

And like 2017 Iowa has entered a yearly tailspin on the heels of yet another fake big victory of the Ferentz era.

Another year of watching a terrible, antiquated offense.

Another year of achieving mediocrity.

Another year without a trip to Indianapolis.

And another year with a fake win. After 22 years, it's the Hawkeye way.

By the way, since that 55-24 game, Ohio State has won four straight Big Ten titles, qualified for the CFP twice, and made the National Championship Game last season. I'm not saying Iowa should be held to that standard, but when they haven't even entered the last week of the season with a trip to Indianapolis within reach in that same time span, it has to make you wonder if there is any way out of this hell.

And I think we all know the answer.

Is It Basketball Season Yet?

In case you haven’t noticed by now, I’m pretty disgusted with the way things are going on the gridiron and so we’ll close by shifting gears to the hardwood. The Hawkeyes tip off what should be a rather fascinating campaign with an exhibition game tonight against Slippery Rock.

The goal tonight will be identical to any exhibition contest—just get through without an injury. That mantra should be repeated doubly for Keegan Murray who enters his sophomore season locally and nationally touted as one of the Big Ten’s best players.

Outside of the 6’8” forward however, this Iowa team is bursting at the seams with questions including, but not limited to:

  • How much does Jordan Bohannon have left in the tank entering his 75th season in Iowa City?
  • Can North Dakota transfer forward Fillip Rebraca (somewhat) fill the shoes of Luka Garza and Jack Nunge?
  • Is Patrick McCaffery ready to take a big leap?
  • Has Iowa done anything to fix its point-guard woes?
  • Is this team closer to the top four or the bottom four in the conference?

In regards to the last two questions, Joe Toussaint is what he is at this point: a pretty good on-ball defender who can dazzle at times with the rock both in passing and explosively getting to the hoop. He also can’t really shoot (at least thus far), posting 42.4% from the field, 27.3 from three, and 62.2% from the line last season. To be fair, Toussaint averaged a shade over 11 minutes per game off the bench in 2020-21, so there should be much more opportunity for the point guard to improve on his offensive game.

Outside of Joe T, the Hawkeyes will be relying on second-year guards Ahron Ulis and Tony Perkins to take a leap or this team could start to look a lot like last year... you know... minus two NBA players (one the National Player of the Year in college basketball) and three-point sharpshooter C.J. Fredrick.

Which leads us to the last question on that list: just how good is this team? Obviously we won’t definitively know until the games are played, but in comparing this squad to recent McCaffery teams it feels similar to how the 2019-20 team entered its season.

That squad looked lost following a blowout loss to DePaul in Iowa City in November, and then Luka Garza mania happened and the program took off for two years.

Murray is a stud and will only get better, but who else is ready to step up and take what looks like an NCAA Tournament bubble team to another level?

I have no idea.

I do know that this is Year 12 of the McCaffery era and making the Big Dance needs to be a given and not the main goal of the season. If this program ever wants to take a step forward outside of “7-10 seed theater” it needs to find its way into the field of 68 on a regular basis.

So it’s Big Dance or bust for these Hawkeyes who were picked a predictable 10th in the conference by Big Ten media members.

And that’s always a fun thing when your program hasn’t won a sliver of a Big Ten title in 42 years or been to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament in 22 years.

But hey, who’s counting?

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