Dear fellow Hawkeye fans: you are welcome.
Some may point to a spunky and skilled young quarterback or a resurgent defense for Iowa's recent reversal of fortune. Others may say it's a trio of hungry senior linebackers or an offensive line harnessing nastiness and pushing back opposing linemen.
But I know the truth. It's a tee-shirt.
Specifically, a ratty 11-year-old black tee-shirt purchased prior to the record-setting 2002 season. I hadn't seen this shirt for several years. It's quite unremarkable - just a plain "Hawkeyes" and "University of Iowa" logo in gold with an "established 1847" below it on black cotton.
The logos are even starting to crack and peel.
Sometime after the disappointing season-opening loss to Northern Illinois, I was asked (ordered) to go through a couple dresser drawers full of old clothes, looking to send some to Goodwill per my wife's forceful suggestion. And there it was, tucked way back into the corner behind some medium sized tees that haven't fit me for some time.
I had it in my hand, ready to go in the Goodwill pile. But something compelled me to keep it.
I'd worn a gold Under Armour dri-fit Hawkeye shirt to the NIU game. I was thinking about wearing it again for the Missouri State game, due to the heat. But like any (ir)rational sports fan, there's no way in hell I'm wearing the same shirt I wore to a loss to the next game, no matter the caliber of opponent.
So I threw on old black-y. And the Hawks won.
Never one to mess with a streak, I donned the dilapidated shirt while hosting a watching party at my house for Iowa State. And the Hawks won.
Rinse and repeat for Western Michigan - a dominating win!
This past Saturday, I was invited to my Kinnick seatmate's newly finished basement to watch the Floyd of Rosedale game. By now, you know what I was wearing. And so the Hawks prevailed again, mashing the Gophers on both lines of scrimmage.
Hey, as the advertisements for Budweiser say, it's only weird if it doesn't work. This Saturday, I will be in Philadelphia attending a business conference. I'm a little worried that the logo of the dark shirt will show through my dress shirt, but hey, sometimes you gotta take one for the team.
In all seriousness, though, isn't it FUN to watch Iowa football again? Sure, around this time last year things seemed to be trending okay after Iowa scrambled to 4-2 with a road win over Michigan State. But there was a gnawing feeling that something just didn't feel right about the team. The offense was a bogged down mess and opponents were continuing to gash an inexperienced defense. And that loss to a mediocre Central Michigan team was a hangover that wouldn't go away all year.
Fast forward to today, and some doom-and-gloomers might say Iowa is in the same position. That the seeming resurgence is fools' gold made shiny by a host of sub-par opponents. Certainly, the schedule gets tougher - starting this week. But here are a few numbers that should make you feel a bit better:
• This year's new quarterback, Jake Rudock, has as many road wins in his first pair of games away from Kinnick (2) as last year's starter James Vandenberg had in his entire career. And Rudock is only a sophomore!
• Last season, in 12 games, the Iowa defense was credited with a total of 11 quarterback hurries. This season, a stouter defensive line and more blitzing from linebackers and safeties has resulted in 14 quarterback hurries in only five games.
• The 2013 Hawkeyes rank 7th in the nation in rushing yards allowed at 79.2 per game. Last year's defense was run over to the tune of 162.1 ypg.
• Tempo, tempo, tempo. Much maligned offensive coordinator Greg Davis has upped Iowa's plays per game from a relatively paltry 66 to a quick-tempo 78.8. That's 12 more offensive snaps per game, meaning the defense is getting more rest and the offense is creating more scoring opportunities.
Now, this doesn't mean I think the Hawkeyes are going to roll through the rest of the schedule like they rolled the hapless rodents from up north. This team is still a work-in-progress with some weaknesses (hello there kick coverage team and leaky secondary!) But if you can't be excited by the evident progress this team is making each week, I have to question your football acumen.
Besides, I'm not going to be taking that ratty old tee-shirt off anytime soon!
Follow me on Twitter @ToryBrecht and follow the 12Saturdays podcast @12Saturdays.