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Commentary: Season can't be called a success without one more win

BY RYAN PROBASCO | NOVEMBER 11, 2013 5:00 AM

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In the not-so-distant past, predicting a seven-win season for the Iowa football team would earn you a glare and certain disagreement from whoever was in hearing distance of you.

And, if you can believe it, those disagreements would probably be correct.

From 2008-11, Iowa won fewer than eight games just once. And in that time, the Black and Gold won three bowl games — including an Orange Bowl victory against Georgia Tech in 2010.  

With Saturday’s 38-14 win over Purdue, the Hawkeyes became bowl-eligible for the first time since 2011. Unsurprisingly, players and coaches were thrilled with the accomplishment — as they should be, considering the nightmarish, four-win season that was 2012.

But I, or anyone for that matter, shouldn’t call 2013 a success for Kirk Ferentz’s squad unless it can manage at least one more win.

“Getting to a bowl game was one of our goals this off-season,” middle linebacker James Morris said following his team’s win against Purdue. “But at the same time, that doesn’t mean we’re checking out. We still feel like we have a lot to play for. I’m excited about the opportunities we have ahead of us.”

Expectations have changed for Iowa over the past few seasons. No longer do fans or followers of the program dream of oranges, roses, or any other inanimate symbols that represent BCS bowl games.

Now, bowl games alone are celebrated in Iowa City. Hundreds of traveling Hawkeye fans in West Lafayette, Ind., stayed well after the conclusion of the Nov. 9 game to congratulate players and coaches. And it was obvious that players felt a sense of accomplishment after reaching the six-win benchmark.

That’s all well and good. But none of those six wins were unexpected or unordinary. Beating Purdue, Western Michigan, Iowa State, and Missouri State were all but guaranteed victories this year.

With all of the resources and talent feeding the program, getting to six wins should be the bare minimum.

The Hawkeyes need to beat someone they aren’t supposed to if they expect anyone to realistically celebrate this season. With just two games left, obviously, the best Iowa can do is eight victories.

But the Hawkeyes’ scheduled opponents — Michigan and Nebraska — aren’t having great seasons by any means, which is why the Hawkeyes shouldn’t feel over-pressured by fans expecting them to win those games.

Winning three more games than it did in the previous season is a huge success for a majority of the country’s teams. A 7-5 record at year’s end probably won’t lessen the heat on Ferentz’s seat — and it won’t make anyone start defending his lucrative contract buyout, either.

But predicting six or seven wins for this year’s Hawkeye squad was the norm for analysts and experts prior to the season. Ferentz and his players may not abide by it, but reaching its preseason expectations usually signals that something went right for a program. 

If they can beat Michigan or Nebraska, Iowa’s players, and especially its seniors, should hold their heads high. Expectations have been lowered in Iowa City, that’s a certainty. But exceeding preseason expectations isn’t any less of an accomplishment than it was in years past. And Iowa still has plenty of opportunity to do just that.


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