116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
INDIANAPOLIS — You may have heard Michigan’s fight song coming through your television speakers once or 50 times Saturday night. The final lyric:
Hail! Hail! to Michigan,
The champions of the West!
Wait, aren’t the Iowa Hawkeyes the champions of the Big Ten West? Well, yes, and that’s a nice thing they can put on a banner in their football complex. But champions of the Big Ten itself? Iowa wasn’t in the same geographic region. Not with that offensive display.
The Hawkeyes dined on danger throughout this season, but that doesn’t work against champions of the West (not the division). You can’t have that futile an offense and win with defense, punting and sleight of hand when your opponent isn’t one of the also-rans of the West (the division).
These chances to win the whole ball of wax in the Big Ten don’t often come around for the Hawkeyes. When they got such a chance this year, clinched by Wisconsin falling down at Minnesota the week earlier, Iowa brought no offense to the fight it lost by the embarrassing score of 42-3.
OK, “no offense” is an obvious exaggeration. No offense when it mattered, however, is fact. Counting field goal tries and punts, Iowa ran 26 plays in Michigan territory. It scored three points.
It’s all forgivable when you keep winning, and 10 wins are 10 wins are 10 wins. But the thing about winning 10 times is it gets you on a very big stage. The Hawkeyes fell off it, and into the orchestra pit.
Look, Michigan is just better. It has a terrific offense and defense. Maybe it can make a serious push in the College Football Playoff.
But you want to at least compete, make everyone remember you were part of this thing. Like the Hawkeyes did in their other appearance in an epic league-title game here in 2015.
Also, don’t give the offense all the blame for this rout. Iowa allowed Michigan to set off back-to-back bombs for touchdowns of 67 and 75 yards in the first quarter, and allowed 461 yards and six TDs.
However, the defense was keeping the team in the game in the second quarter, tightening up after the Wolverines went boom-boom. The offense didn’t do its part, and eventually the whole thing broke down.
With one of the least-effective run games it’s had this millennium and a passing attack that often was anything but one, the lore of how this team squeezed out 10 wins will grow as time passes.
Iowa was No. 2 in the country halfway through this season, but its offense scored 7, 7 and 3 points in losses after that and averaged under 300 yards a game. That’s the low-rent district.
The pendulum of sports. One week, it was euphoria for Iowa and its fans, with the realization they would get to play for a big prize, the Big Ten title and the Rose Bowl trip that would come with it if they won.
Then, this mess.
“Tonight certainly wasn’t what we had intended it to be,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said.
“We’ll put this behind us after a couple of days.”
First, no, you won’t. Second, you shouldn’t want to put it behind you. You should look at this as the final piece of evidence that it’s time to rethink the way you want to structure an offense in 2022.
This season has been an outlier. You can’t count on leading the nation in takeaways even when it seems like you can based on the last several seasons. You can’t expect to go 10-2 or 9-3 or even 8-4 or 7-5 when you get outgained by 45 yards a game over 13 games.
Is this an overreaction after one big walloping in a championship game? Hey, you’ve seen this season. It was the height of overachieving, and kudos to the Hawkeyes for doing it. It took a lot of heart and soul.
Michigan, though, won the Big Ten because it took a hard look at itself after an unhappy 2020 season and fixed things. Jim Harbaugh’s offensive coordinator, Josh Gattis, renovated his scheme to fit his players.
Iowa? It can’t pin all its woes on an offensive line that’s a season away. The team is No. 123 in the nation in total offense. It achieved the almost-impossible by getting to Saturday’s game. It isn’t returning here until the head coach and his son, offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, do some serious renovating of their own.
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