Commentary: Iowa can be what we thought it was


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The Saturday that likely changed the season had all the buildup of a heavyweight fight but ended in a knockout. It looks like a coach oozing confidence after his team imposed its will on the opposition.

It feels like a party — because it was one.

Iowa eviscerated Northwestern, 48-7, and suddenly, optimism is everywhere. Fans talked about how this month might be magical after all. Players talked about how this was the first step toward playing “somewhere warm.”

Things change very quickly in college football. We know this to be true, but even by those standards, this was more like lightning.

“It’s Week 8,” free safety Jordan Lomax said. “We’ve gotten a lot better since Week 1. We just have keep on improving. We’re getting our confidence. We realize that we’re a good football team. All we have to do is go out there and compete.”

The Iowa football team that stepped out on the field and put on a show against Northwestern was the team we thought it’d be in the preseason. The offense rolled like a freight train, and almost every facet of the unit excelled. The defense was relentless, bruising, and mean. The special teams contributed a touchdown.

The offensive line — the one with “two NFL players at tackle,” said Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald — dominated the trenches, paving the way for a redshirt freshman with no prior rushing stats to run for 106 yards.

The defensive line terrorized the Wildcats to the tune of 5 sacks and 8 total tackles for loss. The secondary broke up eight passes. Northwestern, at one point, had first-and-goal on Iowa’s 4-yard line, and it did not score on that drive.

“Games like this don’t happen a lot,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said.

If this ends up being the year Iowa gets to Indianapolis for the Big Ten title game, the team’s rise will begin with this uncompetitive blowout win. This game was fun. This game was needed. It was the most complete game the Hawkeyes have played, and likely will play, all year.

More importantly, though, this game validated that this team is serious about this postseason push, that they can get there, and that they can, perhaps, compete with whoever emerges from the vaunted East Division.

Northwestern certainly isn’t a great team. We know this, too. But it’s not a conference bottom feeder, either. The Wildcats beat a tough Wisconsin team and the scrappy Nittany Lions. They hung with a competitive Minnesota team.

Iowa emasculating the Wildcats should serve as a vote of confidence. It should tell fans that this team can be as good as we thought they would be, that the offense can put up a lot of points, that the defense can be stingy and nasty and an absolute pleasure to watch.

This victory shouldn’t be anything more than that, because this is mostly what we expected Iowa to do in the first place.

The stage is set — along with some heavier expectations — for the Hawkeyes to now prove this wasn’t just a fluke disemboweling of a below-average team. This game was nice, sure, but you know what’s better than one great football game?

A repeat performance.

Follow @codygoodwin on Twitter for updates, news, and analysis about the Iowa football team.

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