IOWA CITY, Ia. — It’s that time of year, when leaves rustle through the autumn wind and Big Ten football teams shuffle through the postseason pecking order.
Of course, Iowa still needs to qualify.
The Hawkeyes will take a 5-4 record into Saturday’s 11 a.m. date with Purdue, and a victory would make them bowl-eligible for the 12th time in 13 seasons.
It’s an accomplishment that typically draws little fanfare.
Some of you might even get a little snarky, following a 28-9 loss to Wisconsin, in which the offense was punchless and the defense staggered.
You’re miffed, and I understand.
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Still, earning a bowl invite is significant — and it sure as heck beats the alternative.
“I think we’re still building,” senior safety Tanner Miller said. “I think we have a lot of room to improve.
“We’re doing things right. We’re thinking the right way. We’ve just got to get over that hump.”
Playing in December or January would mark Iowa’s ascent from last year’s 4-8 debacle.
Remember this summer, when prognosticators were picking the Hawkeyes and Minnesota to finish at the bottom of the Big Ten’s Legends Division?
Well, the Gophers improved to 7-2 last weekend with a win over Indiana — making Iowa’s 23-7 rout at TCF Bank Stadium on Sept. 28 a signature moment in the rebuilding process.
Three losses in the four games since have damped the mood, but the Hawkeyes keep popping up on bowl projections.
ESPN’s Brad Edwards put Iowa in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl against Missouri, while Mark Schlabach is leaning toward a Texas Bowl matchup with Kansas State.
Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com also has the Hawkeye and Wildcats playing Dec. 27 in Houston.
It’s not Tampa or Miami, but the Lone Star State could be a launching point.
An Alamo Bowl triumph in 2001 was a nice springboard for 2002.
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This year’s Hawkeyes are frustrating. They’re also gaining momentum for the future.
“I don’t think we’re that far away,” coach Kirk Ferentz said after losing to the Badgers. “It’s hardly a hopeless case.”
At least not as hopeless as things appear with Purdue.
The Boilermakers (1-7) have been dreadful, losing their first four Big Ten games by an average of 34.5 points.
They scored a total of 17 points against Wisconsin and Nebraska and were shut out by Michigan State and Ohio State.
They haven’t run an offensive play inside an opponent’s 20-yard line since Sept. 28, and first-year coach Darrell Hazell is still seeking a win over an NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision team.
It makes Iowa’s problems — including the health of starting quarterback Jake Rudock — look petty.
The Hawkeyes, however, do have issues.
Ever since they ran over Minnesota for 246 yards, Mark Weisman and company have averaged just 101 yards per game on the ground.
Both Rudock and backup C.J. Beathard misfired against Wisconsin, netting nine points on four red-zone chances, and converting just 4-of-18 third downs.
“It seemed to happen all game,” Beathard said. “We couldn’t punch it in.”
Punching your postseason ticket is always noteworthy, even if it doesn’t come with a celebratory fist pump.
Andrew Logue covers Hawkeye football and sports media for the Register. Follow him on Twitter: @AndrewMLogue.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football