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Being more optimistic about bowling

BY CODY GOODWIN | OCTOBER 14, 2013 5:00 AM

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Oct. 12 was the kind of college football Saturday we’ve all come to love. Mizzou put a beating on Georgia. Boston College scared Clemson. Texas topped Oklahoma. Johnny Football did more Johnny Football things. It was all very, very awesome to watch.

The Big Ten fielded some interesting matchups, too. Michigan State’s defense made Indiana’s aerial attack look pedestrian. Wisconsin punked Northwestern. Nebraska embarrassed Purdue. And Devin Gardner threw another interception — two of them, actually.

These games proved a number of things. Christian Hackenberg proved he is the truth. Wisconsin proved the transition from Bret Bielema to Gary Andersen wasn’t going to be a rough one.

The matchups also revealed that Iowa has a really, really good shot at going bowling this season.

A quick glance over the schedule in the preseason was all you needed to peg Iowa as one of the Big Ten’s basement dwellers. On paper, most of us saw four or five wins, max. I, admittedly optimistically, saw six. (I’m not sure why, either.)

At 4-2 (1-1 Big Ten), the Hawkeyes are right where we all thought they’d be: win the four easy games and bookend them with losses to two tough teams. It was the second-half of the season where the collapse would happen (again). Iowa still has to play Ohio State, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Purdue, Michigan, and Nebraska.

Be honest, now: Before Iowa kicked off against Northern Illinois back in August, did anybody see two more wins in that set of games? Purdue might be the only surefire victory among them, but people thought that last year, too.

Now that we’re halfway through the season, a few of those teams don’t look nearly as daunting as the on-paper preseason analysis suggested.

Northwestern, which will come to Iowa City in two weeks, looks like a different team on the road than it does at home. Michigan is going to give Iowa plenty of chances to score. Nebraska still hasn’t played anybody decent and won’t until next month.

This is not to say Iowa is going to beat these teams handily — or even at all. It’s just that the idea of Iowa beating them isn’t as farfetched as it used to sound.

The Hawkeyes still have to go out and beat these teams, of course. I’m not marking down these games as wins. That’s silly. But it wouldn’t be crazy — and yes, people will go nuts — if Iowa pulled out eight or nine wins.

I don’t expect many people to sip this Kool-Aid. And that’s fine. Last season, Iowa was in a similar position — 4-2 through six games with a favorable schedule down the stretch. People felt a lot better about the idea of an 8-4 finish as opposed to 4-8. Seasons are funny like that.

But this is a different team. We’ve seen it. The offense is a lot more confident. The defense still hasn’t allowed a rushing touchdown this season. Long gone are the 2-yard outs on third and 7. This team throws tunnel screens and totes the rock with a healthy backfield.

This team is fun to watch. I remember saying that after the season-opening loss to Northern Illinois. People laughed at me. But I still firmly believe it.

And if the back half of this season is to pan out like I think it might, this team will indeed be playing a 13th game this year.


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