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LOS ANGELES — OK, the odds are pretty good Iowa’s football program won’t see another 12-0 regular-season for a long, long time.
For one thing, almost no one goes 12-0. Alabama didn’t. Ohio State didn’t. Stanford lost twice.
For another, it will be a 9-game Big Ten season from this year forward, and Iowa adds Michigan and Penn State to its 2016 slate. Plus, the West Division can’t be any softer in the future than it was this season.
And, I daresay it might be another long stretch between Rose Bowl trips. It’s a 14-team league now. The Rose will spread around invitations, and it will chomp on thorns to get Ohio State or Michigan out here. Especially after Iowa’s 45-16 loss to Stanford here Friday.
But, don’t look for the Hawkeyes to quietly slip back into the pack of Big Ten mediocrity.
“I think they’re going to be awesome,” Iowa senior tight end Henry Krieger Coble said after the game. “The guys they have back, C.J. (Beathard), all those running backs other than Jordan Canzeri ... and I’m not even looking at the defensive side. It’s loaded.”
Krieger Coble is biased, but when you have a good quarterback, you can win big if he has talent around him. Thanks largely to having no time to properly operate, Beathard couldn’t show America his best Friday. But he had a whale of a season, and his presence alone makes Iowa a co-favorite at worst to win the Big Ten West in 2016, especially since the Hawkeyes are playing Wisconsin, Nebraska and Northwestern at home.
The exposure from this season’s great run, the new football facility, and a coaching staff that is hungry adds up to a belief Iowa can continue to prosper.
Offensive line coach Brian Ferentz, for instance, has more mountains he’ll want to move to get where he wants to go in his career. Complacency has never been and will never be part of his coaching game plan.
Head coach Kirk Ferentz, 60, has entered the backstretch of his career. He doesn’t sound or act like someone who wants his legacy to rust in his final seasons, a la Frank Beamer, Mack Brown or Steve Spurrier.
It was doing just that until this season. It’s no way to go out, and Ferentz knows it.
But this is a tough racket, and the coaches at Wisconsin, Nebraska, and everywhere else are playing for the same high stakes. So, there really is nothing wrong with stopping and saying 2015 should be savored now and forever.
I was walking in downtown Los Angeles Saturday morning and came upon a friendly married couple from Cedar Rapids. The game was disappointing, they said in an understatement, “but what a great trip.”
In the days before the game, I hadn’t seen Hawkeye fans looking and sounding so genuinely happy before a bowl since the 2002 Orange. Undoubtedly, many people who stayed home felt the same.
You don’t throw that away just because you got drilled by one of the country’s four best teams and were traffic cones for the nation’s best player, Christian McCaffrey.
Even with two season-ending losses in the games that mattered most, it wasn’t just a good season. It was a great one.
But because of Friday’s flop, there’s still a void to be filled, higher ground to be climbed. That’s sports. That’s life.
Unlike a year ago today, however, there is reason for Hawkeye fans to eagerly await the journey’s resumption.