Sitting at 2-2 overall and coming off one of the most disappointing losses in the Ferentz-era, the Iowa Hawkeyes limp into Big Ten play with plenty of question marks.
With the Minnesota Gophers, 4-0 overall, coming into Iowa City this weekend for Homecoming, the Hawkeyes must find answers. Quickly.
Iowa looks to end a two-game losing streak to the Gophers, who upset the Hawks in both the 2010 and 2011 seasons. However, Iowa may not be as large of a favorite, if at all, after suffering a major setback versus the Central Michigan Chippewas in a 32-31 shocker.
While the Hawkeyes were expected to struggle in the early-going due to a young roster and coaching changes, one couldn’t have expected it to be this bad.
For example, the offense and James Vandenberg finally recorded their first passing touchdown on the opening drive Saturday. While the running game has shown hope with fullback-turned-halfback Mark Weisman carrying the rock, the passing game hasn’t picked up its end of the bargain.
In addition to the passing woes, the bend-but-don’t-break Hawkeye defense has shown vulnerabilities against the Panthers and Chippewas in consecutive weeks. They allowed UNI to march down the field on their first possession last week, making the Panthers look like the Oregon Ducks in the opening minutes. This week, the defense fell apart when the team needed a stop most.
After the Iowa defense had allowed just ten points combined in the second halves of their first three contests, they managed to give up nine points in the final 45 seconds Saturday.
Remember folks, this was to Central Michigan.
Let’s play a little game.
Raise your hand if you felt “good” when Iowa took an 8-point lead late in the fourth quarter.
Put your hand down.
Raise your hand if you felt “sick to your stomach” as the Chippewas marched down the field unscathed, scoring to make it a two point game.
Raise your hand if you felt “relieved” when Micah Hyde deflected the Chippewas’ two-point conversion pass to preserve the two point lead.
Please, put your hand down.
Raise your hand if you felt “unbelievably anxious” following the Central Michigan onside recovery.
Continue raising your hand and raise your other hand if you thought Iowa was bound to lose the game.
Both hands are unfortunately, most likely raised.
Sure, the Hawkeyes could be 4-0 right now with their two losses coming by a combined four points. But to look at the other end of the spectrum, Iowa could just as easily be 0-4. They snuck out of Chicago with a one-point victory over Northern Illinois and didn’t have control of the UNI game until midway through the fourth quarter.
Fans, get used to it. This is the 2012 Iowa Hawkeyes.
While the Big Ten as a whole appears to be in a “down year”, the Legends division does not.
Minnesota and Northwestern, two of the “easier” opponents Iowa will face this season, both sit at a surprising 4-0. Michigan St. and Nebraska are 3-1 on the young season and are ranked in the top 25, respectively. And, oh yeah, Michigan is just 2-2 but has the deadliest weapon in the conference running their offense in Denard Robinson. Throw Indiana and Purdue, both 2-1, into the mix and no game proves to be “easy.”
The non-conference matchups versus Northern Illinois, UNI, and Central Michigan were supposed to be relatively easy, allowing Iowa to go into cruise-control mode by the third quarter. As we now know entering week five, the Hawkeyes are barely out of park.
If the Hawkeyes are unable to establish the passing game and shore up the defense, it may be an extremely trying season in the Big Ten, even if it’s a “down” year.