The best way to start your day is right here at Landof10.com as we prepare you for everything you need to know about Iowa sports. We’ll share our Hawkeyes Wake-Up Call here with you at 8:30 a.m. (ET) Monday through Friday.
So let’s get to it. Here is your Wake-Up Call for Tuesday, Jan. 3.
How to evaluate Iowa’s season
The Outback Bowl is over. Iowa fans may never want to discuss it again, but it brought about the end of a wild season. Wild seems to be the right word to describe a year that included more ups and downs than a roller-coaster. It makes evaluating this 8-5 team a little difficult.
Did the Hawkeyes overachieve? Did they underachieve? Were they the rare team that met expectations?
Figuring that out requires us to go back to the beginning of the season. Iowa was a preseason Top 25 team. The Hawkeyes were the favorite to win the Big Ten West. The team brought back stars — C.J. Beathard and Desmond King — and experienced players could be found all across the depth chart. It’s about as ideal a situation as a program could hope for.
Expectations were high — probably too high if the assumption was double-digit wins in the regular season — but high across the board.
The Hawkeyes lived up to the hype early beating Miami of Ohio and Iowa State, but issues that would pose large problems were there from the start. The run defense was a problem in the opener and was a key reason the Hawkeyes lost to North Dakota State and Northwestern, very un-Iowa-like performances where the team resembled a Big 12 defense for large stretches.
Injuries would be a factor in both games, and the rest of the season. The passing offense never recovered from the loss of WR Matt VandeBerg. The offensive line always seemed to be missing someone, if not multiple someones.
The injuries would require expectations to be adjusted, though not everyone would. Still, three times the Hawkeyes would win by scoring 14 points. For a large part of the season climbing Mt. Everest seemed like an easier task than Iowa getting into the end zone.
But the team improved. The defense came around and morphed into one of the Big Ten’s top unit’s in late November. The offense found success with the playmaking ability of running backs Akrum Wadley and LeShun Daniels. The offensive line became a strength and would win the Joe Moore Award.
Iowa would pull off a win for the ages against Michigan, but the worst loss of the season came seven days earlier against Penn State. The Hawkeyes would close the regular season with another Top 25 win over Nebraska. They ended November playing a lot like the team most folks pegged them as — a Top 25 squad.
Then Monday happened. The Outback Bowl became more one-sided the longer it went. It wasn’t pretty.
Iowa went through a lot and working through it all must be factored in, but the Wake-Up Call keeps coming back to two truly impressive wins — Nebraska and Michigan — and three truly head scratching losses — North Dakota State, Penn State and Florida. If you wanted to throw the Northwestern loss in that category, The Wake-Up Call wouldn’t argue with you.
The bowl game loss didn’t define the season, but it helped highlight where it fell on the spectrum. This was an underachieving season because of how Iowa lost several games, even if it’s a year with plenty of highlights.
The Wake-Up Call doesn’t have a problem with Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz going for it on fourth-and-goal on the Florida 1-yard line in the first half. If a run-based team like Iowa, which saw its offensive line become a strength late in the season, can’t get a yard, so be it.
The score was tied 3-3. Being aggressive was a good move in what still appeared to be a defensive struggle at the time. A touchdown lead would seem like a larger deficit than it was, as the Hawkeyes would find out later in the quarter.
The play didn’t work. Florida kept Iowa out of the end zone as fullback Brady Ross appeared to miss a block, allowing safety Marcell Harris to make the stop in the backfield.
In retrospect, Florida started to take the game over with the stop.
“That was tough and then getting the ball right back, going down and getting a drive and getting no points out of it,” Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard said. T”hose take a lot of breath out of you, especially when you get nothing out of the deal.”
After the second series Beathard mentions, Florida scored a touchdown. The Gators wouldn’t trail the rest of the way.
A complete mock draft picture
Matt Miller of Bleacher Report released his first seven-round NFL mock draft on Monday morning. Five Hawkeyes were included.
|Desmond King||CB||2nd||51||Tampa Bay|
|Jaleel Johnson||DT||3rd||104||Kansas City|
|George Kittle||TE||6th||217||New England|
Here is the obligatory “it’s very early” warning with team needs changing based on free-agent acquisitions and player performances in the pre-draft workout process.
Still, this gives a good idea of where you can expect Iowa plays to get drafted. Players may move a round or two in the coming months, but this is a good baseline as NFL draft prognostication season really heats up.
Making a scene
Iowa commit Tristan Wirfs put one of his most unique skills on display on Monday. The Mount Vernon offensive lineman walked on his hands at the U.S. Army All-American practice.
— #ArmyBowl (@ArmyAllAmerican) January 2, 2017
Those in and around Iowa high school athletics have seen him do it before. It probably surprised those at the bowl who didn’t do their homework on Wirfs.
Lots of links
- Running back Akrum Wadley is 50-50 on the declaring for the NFL draft.
- Why Beathard’s frustrating bowl performance showed his best trait.
- The Outback Bowl was another reminder of how much work Iowa needs to put into its passing game.