It's amazing to think what could have been for the Hawkeyes.
While Iowa was celebrating another dominating defensive performance in the win over Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl, one couldn't help but wonder if Iowa would be proclaiming a share of the national title if quarterback Ricky Stanzi never got hurt.
The junior injured his ankle in the first half against Northwestern and missed the final two games of the regular season. Iowa ended up losing to the Wildcats 17-10 after leading 10-0 in the first quarter and dropped a heartbreaker to Ohio State in overtime.
If Stanzi was in the lineup, Iowa might have beaten both those teams, won the Big Ten, played in the Rose Bowl and had an undefeated season.
"That's not something we are worried about right now," said Stanzi. "We wanted to win this game and we were able to do that."
But it didn't take an genius to see that Stanzi and the Iowa offense were a different team against Georgia Tech.
Stanzi led the team down the field with ease, throwing two touchdowns in the first quarter. The passing game opened up the running game, allowing Iowa to rush for 172 yards, including 113 by Brandon Wegher.
Without Stanzi, Iowa scored just 36 points in 12 quarters (including one overtime period) and beat lowly Minnesota 12-0 in the regular-season finale. It didn't have a 100-yard rusher in those three games and backup quarterback James Vandenberg completed only 48 percent of his passes with four interceptions.
Stanzi's return at the Orange Bowl gave the offense the jolt it needed to complement one of the best defenses in the nation.
"He's the guy you hate to miss, but if he's not there, you have to play without him," said wide receiver Marvin McNutt. "He's our leader and our Tom Brady. We want him out there."
Pretty high praise for a guy who still ended up with 14 interceptions this season. But that's the kind of respect the rest of the team has for their quarterback.
"He is such a good competitor, good leader and every time he is on the field he is going to do well," said linebacker Pat Angerer.
Iowa couldn't have asked for a better start with Stanzi opening the game 8-for-8 passing. Once the Hawkeyes put up 14 points, the defense knew their job just became a lot easier.
"It was huge," added linebacker A.J. Edds. "Especially with this kind of offense, we knew if we get them down a little bit and get them in a hole, it would give us a good chance."
Stanzi gave Iowa more than a good chance and with him healthy all season, the Hawkeyes would have had a better chance to post its first undefeated season since 1922.