To be an Iowa fan is to be ready for anything.
No team, no fanbase, weathers a preconference loss to North Dakota State with more sanguinity than the Hawkeyes. The season is long, an Iowa fan knows, and calling a loss “derailing” is like saying a single rotten ear of corn makes for a bad harvest.
Akrum Wadley the ball carrier. Gain of five, second and five.
To discern the quality of a Hawkeyes team takes biting-into, and nothing is certain until defeat has been suffered. Then the floor is found, and possibly the ceiling, and all that’s left to figure out is how wide the field stretches.
Pass from Nathan Stanley to James VandeBerg completed, short of the first down marker. Hawkeyes will punt.
Win totals rise and fall like corn futures. Clouds pass over the sun like slot receivers motioning to reveal zone coverage.
Keith Duncan is on to attempt a field goal from the 31 yard line. The ball is down, the kick is up, and…
This season brings a new offensive coordinator. Yet in typical Iowa fashion, his name is familiar. Under Brian, Iowa will become more Ferentz than it was the previous year, and vice versa.
This game has been delayed due to a Severe Weather announcement from the National Weather Service.
No problem. Through it all, the seasoned Iowa fan squints, lips moving as they mutter the Hawkeyes’ prayer:
Meanwhile, Phil Parker continues to coordinate the defense, and under him, Iowa remains fine, yes, Iowa at large will always be “fine,” fine being defined as anywhere from seven to ten wins. Whatever is above yield will be burned; whatever under, subsidized.
Please rise for the National Anthem.
Yes, Iowa could lose its first two Big Ten games, to Penn State and at Michigan State — hell, it could lose its first five games total — and win out and win the Big Ten West, and lose in the conference championship, because the theory of Ferentz is that time is a flat route, a dump-off to the fullback that gains three yards but gets marked short of the sticks, and history’s real winners are sorted out in punt coverage.
Best Case Scenario
Iowa finishes second or third in the Big Ten West but wins an Iowa version of the national championship after the Hawkeyes beat the Buckeyes on November 4 in Iowa City and that Ohio State team goes on to win the College Football Playoff with just that Iowa loss against them.
Worst Case Scenario
Iowa’s never been above losing an early preconference game to a plains state. Wyoming QB Josh Allen will expose a Desmond King-less Iowa defense in the opener and set the Hawkeyes on their way to a slog of a 4 or 5 win season. They’ll still beat Iowa State, but QBs Nathan Stanley and Tyler Wiegers will struggle in conference play and Iowa fans will struggle to tell them apart. Road losses to MSU, NW, Wisconsin, and Nebraska and the first missed bowl in 5 years will render Brian Ferentz’s first year as OC a failure, wasting two of the league’s best tailbacks. After a tense Christmas dinner, Kirk will take Brian aside and tell him he loves him, but he’s disappointed.
Most Likely Case Scenario
A 6-6 season whose highlight is a home win over Minnesota to retain the Floyd. Asserting that this Hawkeyes team is “neither here nor there,” Kirk Ferentz will decline a December bowl game, saying: “I think only winning teams should play in bowls.” This will disappoint senior leader Matt VandeBerg, but if he’s learned anything from Coach Ferentz these last five years in Iowa City, it’s that life is filled with ups and downs. “Rest up for next season,” Ferentz will tell VandeBerg. “You’re eligible for a lot more than college football now.”
Did You Know?
Iowa is one of 16 landlocked US states (plus the District of Columbia).
You know Iowa’s gonna run that ball. But this year, with two studs in the backfield, an experienced offensive line, and an inexperienced QB and receiving corps, expect even more dust clouds rising out of Kinnick Stadium.
With CJ Beathard gone, it’s a two-man race between former 4-star Tyler Wiegers and the younger Nathan Stanley, with Stanley holding the edge nearing the end of camp. They’ve combined to throw just 13 college passes. Whoever wins the job won’t get fantasy points for textbook handoffs and pitches, so look elsewhere for your starting quarterback unless you’re drafting in the late rounds.
Akrum Wadley was a surefire top 5 fantasy RB and a likely top 10 pick until early July, when Nevada grad transfer RB James Butler — a veteran who racked up 1,700 yards and 15 TDs last year — joined the Hawkeyes backfield. Now, what to do with Iowa’s backs is one of the biggest questions of the 2017 draft, along with whether any of them will win the Weisman Trophy. Wadley’s stock surely falls, but it’s hard to imagine him slipping out of the top 15. If they end up splitting touches like Wadley did with LeShun Daniels last year, Butler is worth a look in the 3rd or 4th round and would be a steal afterwards. Now-third-or-fourth-stringers Toren Young and Toks Akinribade probably fall out of the draft.
Fifth-year senior Matt VandeBerg is the only Hawkeye with any real experience (98 catches), but after breaking his foot last year and reinjuring it this spring, he’s a risky pick. Reports from fall camp indicate he’s fully healthy, so we’d recommend waiting until at least the 6th or 7th round before taking a chance. Behind VandeBerg are Adrian Falconer & Devonte Young and transfers Nick Easley and Matt Quarells, none of whom have played much. Unless you hear about one of these younger guys separating himself this week, wait for the in-season waiver wire to try out green Iowa receivers.
George Kittle is gone and we haven’t seen any of those Iowa articles about how this is the year CJ Fiedorowicz finally lives up to his potential, so he must be gone too. Noah Fant appears to be have seized the reins and is receiving all kinds of “look at that body” hype. With any luck and a late-round pick for the mid-tier TE, The Fant Punt puns will be rolling.
Keith Duncan only attempted one field goal over 40 yards as a freshman last year and Iowa only scores so many times, so for now, he’s a bottom tier fantasy kicker.
Defensive coordinator Phil Parker said that college football is going to start looking like “flag football” pretty soon, and there’s nothing he hates more than missed flag grabs. Lucky for him, Iowa defenses don’t miss too many dangling flags. Senior linebacker Josey Jewell is in line for all kinds of awards, and sophomore DB Manny Rugamba, despite an impressive first season, would have better luck blinding every Hawkeye in Iowa than making them forget about Desmond King. Who else is on this defense? Does it even matter? No, apparently not. It’s Iowa. Iowa will be fine like always, so anywhere between the 5th and 7th defense off the board should be fine for you too.
Suggested Viewing Material
Iowa’s huge win over Nebraska
Their loss to Florida
Matt VandeBerg with the best catch of his career