The Rosster: 2014 should be something to show for in Iowa football

BY BEN ROSS | JANUARY 21, 2014 5:00 AM

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Well, the dark days have come for college-football fans across the country. The season has come and gone, and the Iowa football team underperformed in its final game against LSU in the Outback Bowl to cap a season in which it seemed to overperform at times.

LSU sort of fooled around with Iowa for four quarters in Tampa the way a cat toys with a mouse. Iowa stayed within reaching distance of the game, but in reality, the Hawkeyes had no chance of escaping a rainy Outback Bowl with a win.

Iowa finished the season with an 8-5 record, which is a monumental improvement from last year’s four-win campaign. Jake Rudock played about as good as a guy can at quarterback with no previous snaps, and enough key players return to make it look as though the Hawks should improve in 2014.
Well that and Iowa playing just about the easiest schedule in the Big Ten next season.

Instead of playing Ohio State, Michigan State, and Michigan, as it did this past season, Iowa will play Indiana, Illinois, and Maryland — the latter I’m told has joined the Big Ten for some reason. So, yeah. Things do get quite a bit easier for Iowa next year.

Head coach Kirk Ferentz’s squad also gets its two toughest games (and it’s not even close) at home, and both of the contests come at the very end of the season: Wisconsin on Nov. 22 and Nebraska the following Friday. If Iowa doesn’t start the season 10-0 and have a far-too high ranking to show for it, then we’ll all know 2014 as more or less a failure of a season. Iowa could probably stand to drop a game to say, Minnesota or at Pitt — and it probably will — but the Black and Gold really should run the table in the Big Ten next year. And that has everything to do with the most meager of schedules, which, more than anything, speaks volumes about the performance of the conference and how friggin’ stupid it is that Maryland and Rutgers reside in it.

Iowa will obviously miss the play of its spectacular linebacker trio, but the Hawkeyes are usually pretty decent at reloading. What should concern fans the most is who will start under center and who will be appearing behind him in the backfield. I’m afraid we’ve already seen everything we can out of Rudock. C.J. Beathard seems to have a much higher upside, and he outplayed the incumbent in the fourth quarter against LSU when Rudock suffered a knee injury.

And I don’t see Mark Weisman getting much better from this season to next. He may be an above-average running back, but LeShun Daniels and Jordan Canzeri have much higher upsides, especially if Weisman reverts to his old position and plows the way between the tackles at fullback for Daniels and Canzeri.

The table is set for Iowa to find itself ranked in the top 10 and even compete in its first-ever Big Ten championship game. Ferentz is the ninth highest-paid coach in the nation. It’s about time Iowa fielded a squad to show for it.

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