Iowa entered the 2015 season with the usual questions — Will this be the year that Kirk Ferentz is fired and how will this group find a way to underachieve.
Those questions got answered, but in completely opposite ways of the intentions. Ferentz cemented himself in Iowa City and the Hawkeyes ended up overachieving according to preseason predictions.
It led to Iowa winning the Big Ten West division crown and having a magical season. Can that be a catapult to 2016 and beyond? Let’s take a look back at 2015 and see what it may tell us about this upcoming season.
How is it not good when you finish the regular season at 12-0 and win your first Big Ten divisional title? That’s exactly what the Iowa Hawkeyes of 2016 did. But, the outcome every college football fan dreams of didn’t come without a great move by Ferentz in the offseason.
Instead of sticking with long-time starting quarterback Jake Rudock, Ferentz named C.J. Beathard the starter going forward all the way back in January of 2015.
All Beathard did was complete 61 percent of his passes, throw for over 2,800 yards and most importantly throw 17 touchdowns to five interceptions on the season. Meanwhile, Rudock went off to Michigan and continued his somewhat erratic throwing.
Without that decision in January, Ferentz and the Hawkeyes may have had an interesting spring and plenty of questions about the quarterback position before and during the season. Making his decision early paid off for the team and could vault them to much greater things in the future.
Going 12-0 in the regular season is amazing, something to celebrate for sure. However, losing the Big Ten championship game and the Rose Bowl is nothing but bad news.
It showed that while the season was good, the Hawkeyes needed just a bit more in the war chest. Iowa just didn’t have enough to outlast Michigan State in the Big Ten title game, as MSU snuck the final touchdown of the game in the waning seconds of the contest and were off to the College Football Playoffs instead of Iowa.
That was particularly evident in the Rose Bowl, as Stanford simply worked the Hawkeyes when this team should’ve regrouped instead of collapsing following its close loss in the B1G championship game. It was a bad ending to a magical season to say the least.
No way around it, Iowa’s loss to Stanford in the Rose Bowl was about as ugly as it gets.
To use a term from good ‘ole J.R. himself, Stanford stomped a mud hole and walked it dry all over Iowa.
Stanford won that game 45-16, with Christian McCaffrey making Iowa’s vaunted defense look all sorts of bad. He racked up a Rose Bowl record 368 all-purpose yards and helped his team to a 35-0 advantage at half time.
Sure, C.J. Beathard threw a pair of touchdown passes, but it was 38-3 by the time the first one went on the board early in the fourth quarter.
Laying an egg against a team that lost to
What Does it All Mean For 2016
Iowa has had a long history of making short-term runs at relevancy on the national stage. It also has a problem of sustaining those runs and there’s little doubt that is the biggest question facing this team heading in to 2016.
However, this team learned plenty about itself and returns enough starting talent to make the high level of play last more than just one season in Iowa City.
With C.J. Beathard having a full season of starting under his belt, plenty of rushing talent and the majority of a defense that was about as good as any in college football last year all back this team certainly has plenty it can pull from the highs and lows of 2015.