IOWA CITY, Ia. A little deja vu might be creeping into the Iowa football program.
With a 4-2 record, the Hawkeyes are pretty much where they were a year ago — just before a morale-crushing collapse and six straight losses.
But as ESPN’s Lee Corso might say: Not so fast, my friend.
This season has a different vibe, and despite Saturday’s 26-14 loss to Michigan State, the mood among Iowa players remains upbeat.
“If I could express one thing, it would be optimism,” linebacker James Morris said. “We’re a team that hasn’t played up to our potential, and that makes me optimistic.”
If that doesn’t cheer you up heading into a bye week, here are six reasons the Hawkeyes will fare better this fall in their final six games:
— The pundits unveiled their latest bowl projections Sunday, and Iowa still makes the cut. Both ESPN and Phil Steele’s site have the Hawkeyes going to the Heart of Dallas Bowl. Two more victories, and that postseason pick could become reality.
If outsiders haven’t written Iowa off, neither should the black and gold faithful.
— Having Purdue (1-4) on your schedule helps. Iowa visits the Boilermakers on Nov. 9. The lone win for coach Darrell Hazell’s team came against Indiana State, 20-14. The other four opponents outscored Purdue by a combined 169-65.
The Hawkeyes travel to Ohio State on Oct. 19 before hosting Northwestern and Wisconsin. So winning in West Lafayette, Ind., is a must.
— Last year marked the fifth season Iowa started 4-2 under coach Kirk Ferentz, and it was the only time the Hawkeyes didn’t qualify for a bowl. The quartet of other 4-2 teams averaged 3.3 wins during the second half of the regular season.
“You’re going to play good teams week in and week out in the conference,” Ferentz said Saturday. “We knew that when we signed up. We’ll be ready to compete again.”
— Even after a miserable 23-yard rushing effort against the Spartans, Iowa is averaging 207.5 yards on the ground. A year ago, the Hawkeyes were netting 155 rushing yards through six games.
That improvement enables Iowa to control the clock and tempo, and it fosters a swagger that has been missing.
— Jake Rudock is an upgrade at quarterback. He’s already thrown for more touchdowns (eight) than James Vandenberg did in all of 2012 (seven). And the sophomore is more mobile, with five touchdowns rushing (Vandenberg had four last season).
There’s still room for Rudock to improve, and more mistakes will come. But we haven’t seen him at his best, either.
— The defensive front seven is stout. Morris leads a linebacking trio that may be on par with any in the Big Ten. The tackles and ends continue to evolve as a formidable run-stuffing unit — with zero rushing touchdowns allowed.
Will that be enough to knock off the Buckeyes in two weeks? Probably not.
But things are not as bleak as they appeared Saturday.
“It’s just kind of unfortunate,” Morris said. “Sometimes, to understand where your failings are, your shortcomings, you need to be exposed in those areas.
“I think maybe we got exposed a little bit.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football