Can Hawkeye’s B1G West win after lackluster start?

call it fate call it luck A bit of both? Maybe like this.

Whatever fans want to call the Frankenstein Experiment Iowa football, as long as it ends with the word “winner,” they’ll be happy. Winners of 4 Straight, the Hawkeyes are no longer the program that took the field in mid-October and posted 6 turnovers against Ohio State.

They are more physical. They are more battle hardened. Most importantly, entering the final week of the regular season, her confidence is at an all-time high. One more win and the Hawkeyes are the West’s winners in the B1G title game.

After the first 2 weeks of the season, did anyone think that was possible? Better yet, did those calling out Brian Ferentz’s playsheet, after rushing for 151 total yards against the Buckeyes, think this was a reality?

A Black Friday win over Nebraska will guarantee Iowa’s return to Lucas Oil Stadium. Illinois is now on the outside and looking inside thanks to a last-second field goal from Michigan’s Jake Moody in Ann Arbor.

The Huskers, losers by 7 straight to Iowa, may have already waved the white flag before kickoff. With an 11-point lead in the 4th quarter, Nebraska allowed Wisconsin to have 12 unanswered points to complete the 15-14 comeback win. And with a record under .500 plus without a coach, what else does Nebraska have to play for?

Here’s everything at stake as Iowa head into Friday’s matchup:

A department title

Let’s get the simplest thing out of the way first. If Iowa wins, it’s in the title game. The offense could muster 5 yards and it doesn’t matter. Spencer Petras could throw 5 interceptions and the score wouldn’t change.

As long as the Hawkeyes leave Kinnick Stadium with a “W,” they’re going back to Indy. And winning like that just proves that it really matters how you end rather than how you start.

Remember that Iowa team that needed a pair of safeties to beat FCS South Dakota State in Week 1? How about the squad who managed to rush for 150 yards and a touchdown in a 10-7 loss to now 3-8 Iowa State. And the Iowa version that lost out in a 6-9 loss to Illinois?

Yes, that version of Iowa is gone.

Reliant on their defense and relying on enough offensive production, the Hawkeyes have outperformed their last 4 opponents 94-36. Petras and the running game got their stride at the right moment, and the defense is still throwing close to shutouts to the regular pitches.

A chance at redemption

Who will Iowa face in the B1G title game? That answer will come out of Columbus Saturday afternoon based on the winner of “The Game” between Ohio State and Michigan.

Iowa has faced both earlier this season thanks to the luck of B1G scheduling. The Wolverines led 20-0 in the big house before Kaleb Johnson finally scored. Meanwhile, no one in Iowa City is trying to remember what happened at The Horseshoe after Joe Evans’ 11-yard fumble return.

Since their return to Kinnick Stadium, the dynamic has changed for the Hawkeyes. Iowa have held opponents to an average of 9 points per game over the last 4 games. Teams averaged 264.5 rushing yards over that span. Meanwhile, the Hawkeyes have caused at least 1 turnover per outing.

Both Michigan and Ohio State have offenses with the ability to score quickly. They also have units that can stay put for multiple trips, giving their opponent a chance to fight back. Maryland nearly ended Ohio State’s excitement at home, but a fumble from Taulia Tagovailoa, returning for a touchdown in the closing minute of the 4th quarter, eliminated that opportunity.

And the wolverines? Look at the percentage of points in the red zone. While the success rate might be as high as 94.5%, Michigan’s red zone touchdown rate is around 67%.

Take away their kick game and you might have a chance.

Both teams are also far from entering Rivalry Week in full strength and best believe each side will leave everything on the field on November 26th. This isn’t a game just for bragging rights. It’s about a division title and an unbeaten season.

Will Michigan’s Blake Corum be back in full force? How about Donovan Edwards? Will Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba be ready to have a shot at the College Football Playoffs? More than that, how can Iowa use this to its advantage in a rematch?

People will often say, “Imagine if the game was played now” when their team is getting hot. Introduce? A win on Saturday guarantees one of those rematches to become a reality.

And with the way the defense have played, could a surprise be in the works too?

Job Security by Brian Ferentz

When a team struggles, coaches often blame their coordinators. Football and family belong together for Kirk Ferentz. Literally.

An 8-4 record might not get Iowa into CFP chatter, but it will likely ease Brian Ferentz’s hot seat. A division title win will surely silence the critics for another week. An upset victory over the Wolverines or the Buckeyes?

Are we talking about a contract extension in the works?

Despite the offensive surge of late, Iowa’s totals remain soggy. As Week 13 begins, the Hawkeyes rank in each major offensive category here:

  • Passing offense: 152.7 yards per game (129th in FBS)
  • Rushing Offense: 98.4 yards per game (119th in FBS)
  • Total Attack: 251.1 yards per game (130th in FBS)
  • Scoring offense: 17.9 points per game (124th in FBS)
  • 3rd down conversion rate: 28.99% (127th in FBs)

Most of the coordinators would have been sent home by now. Most coordinators are not employed by their father and have the support of a sporting director with those numbers. But with back-to-back division titles, why would Kirk Ferentz feel the need to change offense?

After all, this is the offensive to play a conference title, so something had to work, right?

Depending on who you ask, a win over the Huskers isn’t all positive. If you’re not a fan of uninspiring runs and passes less than 10 yards down, you could probably take this as a negative.

But victories solve a lot of problems, and sometimes lipstick looks really good on a pig.

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