Grim Outlook for Iowa Football 2013?
ESPN’s Big Ten bloggers have shared their early 2013 Big Ten Football Power Poll and they were not kind to Iowa.
I haven’t spent a great deal of time these past few weeks looking ahead to Iowa’s 2013 football season.
The reasons for that are simple. The first reason is that Iowa’s basketball season is underway and it’s a much more positive topic to think about. The second reason is the 2012 football season wasn’t much fun and I am not overly optimistic that 2013 will be significantly better.
That said, one cannot live with their head in the sand forever and this is the time of year when I have always begun to look ahead to ‘next year’.
ESPN did that last night and they peg Iowa 11th out of the 12 teams in the Big Ten in their early 2013 Power Poll.
I wish I could debate and disagree with their assessment and will in some small ways, but on the whole it’s tough to do.
Here is their one through twelve rundown:
1. Ohio State
6. Michigan State
7. Penn State
The teams listed in bold are on Iowa’s schedule next year. One through six, eight and ten. Two through six are in Iowa’s same division. Iowa is at Ohio State, Minnesota, Nebraska and Purdue while hosting Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Northwestern. Iowa also hosts Northern Illinois and plays at Iowa State.
Iowa will start a new quarterback in 2013, which is always the first thing you look for when thinking of ‘next year’; it’s the most important singular position on the team. That said, if Iowa’s offensive scheme continues to lack in shots downfield, it won’t matter who is playing quarterback.
I think Iowa will have a solid offensive line, good tight ends, solid players available in the running game (at least right now), and potentially an average defense.
To be frank, those adjectives are like the best case scenarios.
Iowa has incredible question marks at receiver. They have some talent on the defensive line but some of it may still be a year away. Iowa has questions at both safety positions and one cornerback.
All of this and the 2012 schedule is significantly tougher than it was in 2012, which was one of the weaker Iowa schedules of my lifetime due to the Big Ten’s general weakness and the fact that the Hawkeyes didn’t play Ohio State (12-0) or Wisconsin (8-6).
Northern Illinois returns star quarterback Jordan Lynch along with all five offensive linemen. They lose three of their four talented defensive linemen and two linebackers, so defense will be a question mark for them in their first game. Iowa State has had three winning seasons in their last 11 years and next year looks to continue that trend, but Iowa is playing in Ames and ISU has some experience at quarterback and the Hawkeyes aren’t exactly going to scare anyone right now. Do you feel comfortable picking Iowa to win this game right now? I don’t, and please remind me that I said so later this summer when I get down to brass tacks on my preseason picks.
At this juncture, with knowing ‘some’ of what each Iowa opponent loses and returns but not as much as I will know after spring ball, I try to lump games into five categories; Likely Win, Lean Win, toss-up, Lean Loss, Likely Loss. Here is how I see it right now:
Likely Win: Missouri State, Western Michigan
Lean Win: None
Toss Up: Northern Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan State
Lean Loss: Michigan, Northwestern, Purdue, Wisconsin, Iowa State
Likely Loss: Ohio State, Nebraska
Is that a pessimistic look? Sure it is, and I tend to be optimistic by nature. However after these past two and a half Iowa football seasons, even I don’t possess a great deal of optimism. 6-6 is about the best record I can come up with at this point in time and I am not saying that will be what I go with come August; I’m leaning worse than that as I suspect many of you are. NationalChamps.net shows five teams from the Big Ten as ranked in their Top 25 for 2013 with Northern Illinois and Michigan also receiving consideration and also on Iowa’s schedule. ESPN has an early Top 25 with those same five Big Ten opponents listed.
It feels like most or all of the program’s ‘good will’ has been spent just three years removed from an 11-win season. At least that’s how it feels from my time spent on the message boards and twitter. While I’d not classify those snapshots as being representative of the entire fanbase, I do feel a lot of people who are typically optimistic or level headed are beginning to question the direction of the program.
Iowa’s six-straight losses to end the 2012 season was bad enough but I just get the sense of some degree of inner conflict within the program since the season ended. Erik Campbell will be moving on and while I don’t think that is a huge loss, it’s more change for a program that has prided itself on continuity. We can debate whether or not that continuity has been a great thing. If you have pieces that aren’t as good as they can possibly be, as one of the top revenue generating programs in the sport, is that a good thing?
When word began to circulate in late November that Campbell might be on the way out, I began to reach out to people I know who are very close to the program. Some of these people have taken in practices through the years and some of them have played for Iowa while Campbell was there. While everyone spoke highly of Erik Campbell the person none of them offered anything near an endorsement of Erik Campbell, the football teacher. None of them.
I admire loyalty but perhaps Kirk Ferentz has been too loyal in his time as Iowa’s head coach. He’s been there 14 years and he’s never fired one assistant coach. I wonder, in the history of the sport, if that has ever happened with a coach who has had such tenure at the same school.
That doesn’t mean that Ferentz hasn’t let his displeasure be known; I am guessing it’s far more Kirk’s style to let someone know that they should start looking for a job elsewhere than it is for him to fire them. At the end of the day you arrive at the same result, but it’s still a pretty amazing statistical outlier, isn’t it?
I’m not going to sit here and go through a list of tea-leaves items that come to mind since the end of the season because that can be an overreaction to a 4-8 season the same way blind exuberance can be an overreaction to a good season.
Yet when I think of the 2013 Iowa football season, I don’t find a great deal to be optimistic about. That doesn’t mean I don’t see interesting story lines or that I won’t be watching. There is the possibility that Iowa could be a better football team in 2012 and have the same record or not make it to a bowl game for the second straight year. The quarterback battle will be one to watch as will the growth of the wide receiver position and defensive line.
Should Iowa be a better team? Yes, I think they should. Their offense cannot possibly be worse than it was in 2012. That said, the Legends Division may be stronger on the whole and Iowa might be the worst team in the division. Iowa’s schedule is much more challenging and this team will have an unproven and untested quarterback under center, regardless who wins.
Now you see why I’ve had my head buried in the basketball season.