Blog Entry 120 -- Surprising Iowa

Posted on: November 24, 2008 1:27 pm

As the season winds down and we are closing in on what could be a wild finish (especially in the Big 12), it is time to reflect on some of the biggest surprises this season.

We all know about Alabama and Ball State, who check in at No. 1 and No. 14 in this week's 120, but what about some of those other teams we predicted to not do so well back in August.

Two teams in the Big Ten are at the top of the list, beginning with Iowa, who joins the Top 25 this week, moving up from No. 30 to No. 25.

The Hawkeyes were predicted to finish eighth in the conference in our Big Ten preview, but here they are with a chance to go to a Jan. 1 bowl game.

Back in August Dennis Dodd said: I never thought I'd see Iowa sink this low under Kirk Ferentz. The off-field stuff is more than a distraction. The biggest blow is the decline in talent. The recruiting just hasn't been good in recent years. Last year's 6-6 record is going to look like a BCS bowl after 2008.

Iowa looked like it was headed for a rough season after losing three in a row to drop to 3-3 after six games. But the Hawkeyes finished strong, beating Wisconsin 37-16, Penn State 24-23 and closing out the regular season with a 55-0 thrashing of Minnesota.

"It's a long season and we've had our ups and downs," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "I cannot say enough about the leadership we've gotten from our upperclassmen and a lot of other guys. I'm pleased with the attitude the team kept all through the season."

One guy Ferentz can thank is running back Shonn Greene. The junior came into the season with just 378 career rushing yards and sat out all of 2007 to work on his academics. 

Now his name is popping up on Heisman lists after rushing for 1,729 yards with 17 touchdowns this year.

"My expectations at the beginning of the season were just like everybody else - I didn't know what to expect," Greene said to Daily Iowan. "I just stuck with it, and with my teammates helping me out with stuff like that, we just happened to have a good season."

Iowa can now look forward to capping their strong season in either the Outback Bowl against a SEC team or Champs Sports Bowl vs. an ACC squad.

The Hawkeyes aren't the only Big Ten team that has been a surprise -- Northwestern is sitting at No. 18 after downing Illinois 27-10 this weekend. Many publications, including ours had the Wildcats finishing near the bottom of the rankings. But led by quarterback C.J. Bacher, the Wildcats are looking for their first 10-win season since winning the Big Ten in 1995.

Another big surprise has been Cincinnati. The Bearcats were predicted to finish fourth in the Big East behind West Virginia, Pittsburgh and South Florida, but they are on the verge of winning the Big East and check in this week at No. 16 with a 9-2 record, including 5-1 in the conference.

Not a bad season for a team that has played four different quarterbacks. Tony Pike guided the Bearcats to their biggest win of the season, beating Pittsburgh to take control of the Big East. They only need to beat Syracuse this weekend to earn an automatic bid to a BCS Bowl, most likely the Orange Bowl.

One more team that has surpassed all expectations is Air Force. Since this one is all on me, this is what I said in the Mountain West preview, when I predicted them sixth:

The Falcons should expect a drop-off from last season after losing two of the best players in school history -- Shaun Carney and Chad Hall -- to graduation. Only three starters are back on offense and the Falcons will break in a new quarterback, either Eric Herbort or Shea Smith. The defense is thin on returners too, but safety Chris Thomas is back after recording 110 tackles.

So much for finishing sixth. The Falcons are 8-4 and in fourth place in the division, behind three ranked teams (Utah, TCU and BYU). Air Force had a tough loss this week, but are still ranked No. 43 this week, much higher than was expected at the beginning of the season.


... Mississippi jumped from No. 43 to No. 28 and is on the verge of reaching the Top 25 for the first time this season.

... The highest-ranked team with a losing record is N.C. State, which checks in at No. 57 this week. The Wolfpack have won three in a row, beating Duke, Wake Forest and North Carolina.

... Rotten Apple Cup. With Washington State's victory, it moved up to No. 104, while Washington fell to No. 117. The Huskies are ranked ahead of SMU, North Texas and Western Kentucky.


Since: Jan 20, 2008
Posted on: November 26, 2008 10:43 am 120 -- Surprising Iowa


this out this cool new football sim. make youre own players, own youre own team and battle the rest of the league.

Since: Nov 25, 2008
Posted on: November 25, 2008 11:44 pm 120 -- Surprising Iowa

Tell you what, keep your eye on Iowa...they are a very young, fast, and talented team...reminds me of about 6-7 years ago when we beat texas tech in the alamo bowl and then followed it with about 3-4 years straight of big time bowl games.  In Kirk we trust.

Since: Aug 20, 2006
Posted on: November 25, 2008 9:23 pm 120 -- Surprising Iowa

Much has been made of Beanie Wells missing 3 games while injured (and what a coincidence it was the 3 games you mentioned),


Great point...

Since: Nov 10, 2008
Posted on: November 25, 2008 6:04 pm 120 -- Surprising Iowa

Also thanks for the national ink on Iowa. Do you know how close they came to being undefeated? The lost their four games by a total of 12 points. They literally handed two or three of those games away, including Northwestern. And they outplayed PItt, but just couldn't convert in the red zone as they were still "trying" out quarterbacks. As weak as the Big 10 was this year, even as a big Hawkeye fan, I'm not sure even an undefeated Iowa team would really be one of the top 10 or even 15 teams. But they deserve the ink, and Greene deserves to at least be seated with the quarterbacks at the Heismann Trophy ceremony.

Northwestern by the way did do better than expected, but Iowa handed them a game as did Tim Brewster, Minnesota's coach who thought he could score a TD with 26 seconds left deep in his own territory and instead saw an INT go for a TD (which he did again at the end of the first half of the Iowa game). Northwestern shouldn't be given that much credit.

And no one from Cincy's conference should be in the same breath as top teams in the major conferences. I'm still breathing a sigh of relief that W. Virginia didn't make it to the national championship as they didn't play anyone tougher than Rutgers.



Since: May 14, 2008
Posted on: November 25, 2008 5:15 pm 120 -- Surprising Iowa

Here's my question, why does everyone on here want to keep comparing Oklahama and Iowa?  Yes, OU would dominate Iowa, and the rankings show that.  I would understand your arguments if Iowa was ranked #3 and OU ranked #28.  The fact is not too many publications had Iowa going to a bowl game and now they are in the running for possibly the Outback, and that is suprising.  I don't think anyone came out and said Iowa would hand it to a weak Oklahoma team.

Since: Jan 17, 2008
Posted on: November 25, 2008 5:06 pm 120 -- Surprising Iowa

Look at your horrible non-conference showing.  Ohio St should have lost to Ohio, blown away by USC, Troy kept it competetive for a while. 

WTF?  Ohio St beat Ohio 26-14.  Certainly not like OSU should have, but the outcome was never really in doubt either.  As for Troy, they kept it even more competitive (and deeper into the game) against LSU.  Really, Troy has a fairly decent team.

Much has been made of Beanie Wells missing 3 games while injured (and what a coincidence it was the 3 games you mentioned), but what has been overlooked is the injury problems that affected the O-line.  There was a major lack of continuity for more than half of the season.  A lot of guys had to play in several different positions, and their depth was greatly reduced.  As a result, OSU's line was inconsistent for much of the season.  It is no wonder that they looked much better over the last 4-5 games than they did early.  As if missing Beanie was not enough against USC, losing LG Steve Rehring (probably OSU's most experienced lineman) in the 2nd Qtr set them in scramble mode.  Up to that point OSU had had some success moving the ball, but they went into a tailspin at that point.  The line didn't really even start to gel until the Michigan St game.  It is not like Rehring was the only injury on the O-line either.  They were in scramble mode because they already had 4 key backups that were hurt, and other guys were dinged but had to play through it.

Listen, this is not to make excuses.  OSU's OOC performance was far below expectations.  I'm just telling you why.  As Tressel says "You get what your works deserve".  Right now, that looks like the Capital One Bowl, or an at-large BCS bid if they get lucky (Go Ducks!!!).

BTW, Penn St is a damn good team.  They are loaded all over the place.  I think they were overlooked by many in the media because of some key injuries and all of the off-field distractions JoePa had to deal with over the summer.  Sure didn't slow them down much this year.  That was a pretty serious whooping they laid on a good Oregon St team.

Since: Oct 1, 2006
Posted on: November 25, 2008 3:15 pm 120 -- Surprising Iowa

What bias? Greenes's averaging  6.2 yards a carry which is better than the Oklahoma running backs and leads the nation with 1729 rushing yards. He's 5-11 235 and if you watched the Penn St. game you would know he's fast and cuts back very well. He's the real deal and he'll be playing on Sundays next year. Keep in mind that he's been their main option all year, as they are starting a first year quarterback who is only beginning to find his way. But nobody was able to stop him, he got at least 100 yards each game. If anything Oklahoma's running backs should have an easier time finding holes because they have a great passing attack. For crying out loud, it's not like Oklahoma doesn't get any pub. Why don't you mellow out and give a deserving guy from a lesser known football program his due.

Since: Jul 28, 2008
Posted on: November 25, 2008 2:22 pm 120 -- Surprising Iowa

Thanks for the props txp, too bad my predictions outside the Big Ten pretty much stink up the joint. Outside of the Big Ten, I am worthless.

Since: Nov 22, 2008
Posted on: November 25, 2008 1:54 pm 120 -- Surprising Iowa

Another thing that just chaps my ass is why does the winner of the PAC 10 get home field advantage against the winner of the Big 10 who has to travel across the US.  I understand people want bowl games to be played in nice weather, even though i feel thats not fair, but shouldnt the winner of the PAC 10 and Big 10 be played somewhere nuetral.  Maybe Florida or Louisiana or something like that.  Though i still think Penn State will win,I think it is a big disadvantage evening though we have the best traveling fans in the NATION!

Since: Sep 7, 2008
Posted on: November 25, 2008 1:14 pm 120 -- Surprising Iowa

"Other than Minnesota and Illinois, I was pretty solid on the Big Ten with my picks back in July.  I had Penn State #1, Ohio State #2, Michigan State #3, Wisconsin #4, Illinois #5, Northwestern #6, Iowa #7, Purdue #8, Michigan #9, Indiana #10 and Minnesota #11. Not too bad. Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota obviously shocked a lot of people (myself included) but I had Northwestern and the States all along. Just imagine if Iowa had not lost a couple of early, very close games? The Big Ten is on par with the SEC this year and while the SEC is on a downward trend overall, the Big Ten is heading up and the Big XII is bound for a big fall due to early NFL entries and Mike Leach leaving TT. And who can blame him, have you ever been to west Texas? If New Jersey is the armpit of the United States, West Texas (and southwest Oklahoma) are where you stick the enema."


Put this guy (Unforeseen) in to replace these two clowns.  He did a way better job in his spare time than those 2 combine in their 9-5.  Hell, with their "expert picks", they were "shocked" the whole way through the season.  They just smooch whoever is hot at the moment.  Watch em tout "SEC speed" and "Big12 Offense" this bowl season to death instead of analyzing the games like experts should.  They're just hype machines but they are looking for respect.  Everyone with average IQ or above knows that George Foreman Grills are just grills, and that Foreman got paid for hyping them.  But at least he's not pushing whatever grill is on the top 5 sellers list, because then what little credibility his Grill has will go out the window.  Did you ever wonder why Heisman winners flop so badly in the NFL?  Because these hype machines aren't experts.  When these clowns pick against your team, you should feel really good.  But it doesn't take "experts" to report after-the-facts.

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