IOWA CITY, Iowa — At 4-3, Iowa is slumming it. The team isn’t living in the neighborhood it wants to. The last few weeks went sideways. After losing three of their last four games, if the Hawkeyes are to turn their season around, they need to beat Minnesota on Saturday.
This isn’t a hot take or bold proclamation. It’s more so an assessment of where things sit and what is coming ahead.
Iowa isn’t just playing for the Floyd of Rosedale on Saturday. A victory is the only realistic way the team moves away from the underachiever label.
The Hawkeyes, with veteran offensive and defensive lines and stars in running back Akrum Wadley and linebacker Josey Jewell, looked like a seven- or eight-win team. When breaking in a new quarterback, wide receivers and several members of the secondary, that qualified as a successful season in the preseason.
It still applies now.
But getting there isn’t easy. Two top-10 foes kick off November with No. 6 Ohio State and No. 5 Wisconsin on deck. Purdue and Nebraska, both potential wins, wrap up the regular season.
Living up to expectations
Any chance at seven or eight wins starts with a victory over the Golden Gophers, because the odds of beating both the Buckeyes and Badgers is about as good as hitting the Mega Millions jackpot.
The Hawkeyes find themselves on Baltic Avenue instead of Boardwalk because they haven’t won tight contests. The losses to No. 2 Penn State, No. 16 Michigan State and Northwestern are by a combined 16 points.
“Certainly close doesn’t count,” fullback Brady Ross said. “Close counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. That is about it.”
Close has them close to downgrading their expectations. Lose here, and the boo birds only get louder. The first home loss to the northern rival since 1999 will make the fan reaction from the Northwestern loss seem tame.
The conversation stops becoming about a struggling team. It becomes the online version of TV shouting matches between the Skip Baylesses, Colin Cowherds and Stephen A. Smiths of the fan base about why the team is in free fall and if the Hawkeyes will become bowl eligible. This is the dialogue of a disappointing season.
Changing the narrative
But a win, that plugs some holes. Everything from the preseason, with the exception of a division title, is still in play. The chance of an acceptable season is likely. The chance it becomes something more with a major upset still exists as the calendar turns to November.
Minnesota is always a big game. This year, it matters a little more than most.
This isn’t the ideal time for the Hawkeyes to enter a potential season-defining contest. The run game is stalled. The offense is struggling to score points. Injuries hit the offensive line and defense in recent weeks.
Linebacker Josey Jewell is coming back, but the Hawkeyes are running as smooth as a U-Haul 5,000 miles overdue for an oil change.
“It’s just maybe one or two things here or there,” quarterback Nate Stanley said. “Those small things make a huge difference, especially in a game that can come down to the wire like [Northwestern did].”
How do the Hawkeyes change things? Through the power of positivity, apparently. Visualize yourself living in the penthouse and it will happen. Five different Iowa players mentioned the importance of avoiding negative thoughts this week.
“It’s not really hard to have that,” Stanley said. “Obviously, you see something good happen it’s easy to come back to it. That’s something we are continuing to work on right now.”
The early results are encouraging. Coach Kirk Ferentz and players thought the execution, the biggest thing lacking in recent games, showed up in workouts the last two days.
“We had a good start yesterday,” Wadley said. “Today, we had a good practice and it was probably one of our best practices of the year.”
Moving on up
Practice is good, but it needs to show up on game day. Iowa doesn’t really have another option with the way the first seven contests went.
“We need to win, no matter if it’s a big [trophy], snake or a dog [trophy],” Wadley said. “We have to win.
“The feeling in the locker room after a win and then winning a trophy game and swarming across [the field] with your team is priceless. We need to get back the mood of a win instead of the mood after a loss.”
The vibe is good after hoisting a trophy.
But it’s nothing compared to the one that accompanies the win which brings the moving trucks to relocate the team out of Baltic Avenue.
The post Yes, Iowa needs a win over Minnesota to start salvaging the season appeared first on Land of 10.
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