Continuing on with some of our college football preseason predictions. We hit the Iowa State Cyclones on Tuesday, time for the Iowa Hawkeyes today.
Let's just get the initial prediction out of the way. I think the Hawkeyes are staring a 6-6 season right in the face this year. Vegas has their Over/Under at 6.5 wins for the year and I'd take the Under. Reduced talent from previous seasons, not as much experience returning as they typically do, a new QB under center, and a difficult schedule. Looks like a .500 team to me. Put me down for 6-6 in Iowa City.
However, as a self-proclaimed Hawkeye-hater, this season does scare me a little bit. These are the teams and season where Kirk Ferentz excels at, in my opinion. I know depending on the year, Kirk isn't always the most popular man in Iowa City but Kirk has a way of taking those teams you don't expect much from and getting a lot out of them. I think they go 6-6 but there is a scenario where they exceed expectations and go 8-4 or even 9-3. And that's when Iowa fans are their most obnoxious, when they exceed expectations. When they are better than they thought they would be at the beginning of the season and start to feel really good about themselves. That "big brother" complex starts to burst out of them. They start bragging left and right, and you can almost feel their chests starting to puff out even just interacting with them on Twitter. I just hate it.
So while I think they go 6-6, you can talk your way into thinking they'll have a good season still in 2017. I mean we know their nonconference schedule historically is anything but difficult, so you could easily picture them going 3-0 out of the gate. If they just take care of their winnable home games (Illinois, Minnesota, Purdue) that gets them to 6 wins. Then you get to their 3 difficult but winnable road games (Northwestern, Michigan State, Nebraska). Feels like Kirk can get at least 1 of those most seasons and quite possibly 2 if they overachieve. There are your 8 wins for the year.
And as much as I hate to admit it, Iowa also has a tendency to play well at Wisconsin. So even though that's a game they will come into as double-digit underdogs, likely with Wisconsin coming in undefeated, that game at Camp Randall could be winnable as well. That could be their 9th win.
And even though they'll be significant underdogs again, they do have Ohio State and Penn State at home. So even if those other games don't go the Hawks way, maybe they can sneak out a big home win in either of those games. You never know.
But.....it could go south in Iowa City in a hurry as well.
I can just as easily see a season where Iowa goes 2-1 in the nonconference, drops the first two conference games (Penn St, @ Michigan St), before picking up a win against Illinois. So that's 3-3 to start the year. Then they'll have a 4-game stretch where they go @Northwestern, Minnesota, Ohio State, @Wisconsin. It's not too hard to imagine them going 0-4 in that stretch. Now you are looking at 3-7, no bowl games, the "Fire Kirk" crowd back in full force, and some heat on his son in his first year as Offensive Coordinator. Or as I like to call it, my dream scenario.
Even going through that stretch 1-3 could put them at 4-6 through 10 games and needing to win out for a 6-6 season and a bowl birth. You'd think they get the home game against Purdue but that would leave a trip to Lincoln on Black Friday with a bowl birth on the line. Not an easy trip but that would make for some exciting television. Or at least as exciting as a Nebraska/Iowa football game not played in the '90s could be.
That's the scenario I see much more likely in play this year, the 6-6 season with drama in Iowa City.
Even as a Wisconsin fan, for the past 2-3 years I've been on the "JJ Watt is kind of a douche" side of the fence. JJ Watt is really, really good at football but he's also really, really into JJ Watt. JJ Watt loves him some JJ Watt. Just gets to be a little too much at times.
But what he's doing right now in Houston is really great. If you haven't seen anything about it I think you could just catch up using his Twitter page. He's trying to raise money to help with the flood relief efforts there in Houston which looks like it will take years to fix. I don't know what his actual goal was to start but he's well past that. I think I read his initial goal was $200,000 but I bet he was hoping for more. As of this morning, his efforts have reached over $8.5 million.
Great to see an athlete use their platform for a positive impact on a community, especially a community going through such a catastrophe. I know there are thousands of people that are donating to JJ Watt's fund as well that go unnoticed but Watt had to take the initiative to start the fund and be a figurehead for people to be able to donate towards. I'm sure there are many people that donated to the Houston relief through Watt's fund that probably would not have donated through a Red Cross or some other means. Then once this campaign starts picking up publicity, it makes it easier for other people and other corporations to donate as well.
So great effort out of JJ Watt. For a guy who is often in the news for some cringe-worthy things in my opinion, this is a great act out of him.
Something that really bothers me that shouldn't are these specialized license plates. Specifically the ones promoting a college or university. We see them all the time in Iowa, either the yellow and black for the Hawkeyes or the yellow and red for the Cyclones. Sure there are some other Grand Views, or Coes, or Centrals, or other smaller schools out and about with license plates as well but primarily its Iowa and Iowa State plates I see while driving.
And it's not the plates themselves that bother me, I think I'll probably even get one myself one day, but it's the dumb letter/number combinations people choose to put on it. Just drives me absolutely crazy. You spend extra money to get a specialized plate and then you put a crappy phrase or saying on it.
Here's the worst: Someone's three initials, 4, and then either ISU or UI. And maybe it's just because I live 10 minutes from Ames but I see that all the time on Iowa State plates. ADB4ISU or TMJ4ISU or BOB4ISU. You get the picture.
I just don't get how you spend money on extra plates, plates that are designed to stick out and draw attention to themselves, and then the message you send is RJT4ISU.
Oh, the guy with Iowa State license plates is "for ISU"? You don't say.
I got the message that the person in this car likes Iowa State from the Iowa State plates, you don't need to tell me again that you are for Iowa State with your wording. Come up with something else.
But come up with something simple. I also hate when I see plates with you can't understand or the spelling is crazy just to make it fit. I realize you only get 7 characters in Iowa to work with and most of the good options are probably already taken but if your license plate looks ridiculous I hate it as well. Like using a 1 for an "i" because that's already taken. Or i see variations of Hilton Magic spelled out with an MGK occasionally. Spot it. Either spell it correctly or come up with something new. It makes you look illiterate.