October 7, 2021
Personal expectations for my favorite sports teams usually sit somewhere between “middling” and “low.” This is a rather pitiful mechanism of self-protection: When they do well, I’m surprised; when they do poorly, that’s what I thought would happen.
Accordingly, you can imagine how thrilled I’ve been with the recent success of the Iowa Hawkeyes. Our 5-0 football team is ranked No. 3 in the AP Poll and has a tenacious defense capable of putting any team in the cellar for four quarters. With a massive matchup against No. 4 Penn State in Iowa City on Saturday, all eyes are on the Hawks.
The final chapter of the 2021 season has yet to be written for Iowa, but I can’t help reminiscing about the 2015 team. Coming off a drab season in 2014, the Hawkeyes defied expectations and went 12-0 before losing in the conference championship game. They went on to play in the Rose Bowl, but we don’t need to talk about what happened there.
Though there were a dozen victories that year, I remember the losses most. The sting of watching the Big 10 title slip away on Michigan State’s final drive was crippling. Once the horn sounded and the Hawkeyes had indeed fallen, I remember lying in bed with a pillow wrapped around my head trying not to cry. We men can be so pathetic sometimes.
Though it culminated in heartbreak, that crazy season taught me to enjoy the ride while it lasts. My friends and I spent most weeks that fall lamenting how the sky would fall Saturday, only to watch the Hawkeyes barrel through another opponent and find the win column. Not every win is pretty for Iowa, but a win is a win and there’s no need to split hairs.
I don’t know where this Iowa team will find itself at season’s end; however, I’m expecting good things. The Big 10’s West Division is complete garbage this year and I don’t think there are any offenses capable of besting our defense on any given Saturday. That D is truly something to behold – just look what it did to Maryland last week – and I think the Hawkeyes could sleepwalk through the West.
There’s no sense ruminating on the what-ifs and guessing scenarios, though. You have to actually play the games, and if Iowa doesn’t show up to take care of business every Saturday, I know what will happen.
Victory takes the guessing game out of the post-season and the Hawkeyes are very much in control of their own destiny only five games in. No matter how they do it, Kirk Ferentz’s team needs to remember one single thing: Just win, baby.
Nick Pedley is the news editor of The Hartley Sentinel-The Everly/Royal News.