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November 12, 2013

Tuesdays With Torbee

Three months and 10 games ago, I wrote in this space that 2013 likely would be the most important season in the Kirk Ferentz era since 2001. I also struggled making a preseason prediction, citing the host of unknowns surrounding the program.

Of course, I broke down and tried my best at prognosticating, calling for a 6-6 record and growing evidence that Iowa football wasn't irrevocably broken. The good news is, the Hawkeyes have already reached my admittedly modest expectations. The better news is they could end up even better.

The Purdue game this past Saturday was not particularly exciting or illuminating. A solid-if-not-spectacular Iowa team ground out a relatively easy victory over a truly bad Boilermaker squad. The Hawkeyes survived a sluggish start and imposed their will in the trenches against an over-matched team. It's a credit to how much they've improved this year that this doesn't seem like a big deal. Too often in 2012, just looking competitive was a challenge.

Thus far, Iowa has beaten the teams they were "supposed to" - a phrase critics of the Ferentz program have used often when pointing out an alleged shortcoming of his - and came up short against very good teams. Commentator and former Minnesota Gopher coach Glen Mason repeatedly called Iowa the
"best four loss team in the country" during Saturday's broadcast. And while that is not the sort of praise anyone affiliated with a program accustomed to competing for championships is going to brag about, it's a hell of a lot better than being on the pile of bottom-feeders and irrelevants where Iowa found itself last year.

The exciting thing is the Hawkeyes have the chance to make this another November to remember. Although Michigan and Nebraska are not having historically great seasons by their standards, they are the blue blood programs in the Legends Division and stand in the way of Iowa turning a modest rebuilding effort into a pretty special season.

I watched the Cornhusker versus Wolverine confrontation while enjoying a victory beverage ($8 liters of Bells Two-Hearted, what a deal!) and have to say I was not all that impressed. Devin Gardner is a destitute man's Denard Robinson and the Cornhuskers like giving the ball away and making boneheaded mistakes.

I'm not saying this means Iowa has a clear path to 8 wins and a very nice bowl. We've all seen Iowa's ability to make many mistakes of its own (especially on special teams, which remain terrifying). But the only opponents to beat Iowa thus far this season are solid Top 25 teams, and I'm not sure that's an apt description for the next two opponents. I particularly like the Hawks chances against Michigan in Iowa City. The Wolverines seem to be struggling with their identity now, and Iowa is bound to turn around their fortunes at home on Senior Day. Winning in Lincoln appears to be a tougher proposition, but if Nebraska continues to get beat up, it's not out of the question.

I have a special saving account I use for "fun money" purchases like Iowa bowl games. This summer, I blew most of what I saved last year on a really nice new bike, thinking there was little chance I'd want to go to any bowl Iowa would qualify for after this season. But if things break the right way, I might have to get a paper route or something!

Before I wrap up - one short comment on Iowa basketball. People, chill the heck out! Yeah, the cagers looked shaky against Nebraska-Omaha. But it's soooooooo early. And it's basketball. There are going to be some nights where you look bad. Be happy with a win and stop fretting. This is a good team.

Follow me on Twitter @ToryBrecht and follow the 12 Saturdays podcast @12Saturdays.



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