I’ll admit it. I’m done.
I’m done discounting this Iowa team.
Week after week, I keep looking for it to stumble and prove me right, showing that a team without the type of athlete that passes the eye test can’t continue to do what it does week, after week, after week. Yet, it never happened. Not once in the regular season.
It seems I wasn’t the only one.
Almost every so-called college football expert kept waiting for the cookie to crumble for this overachieving Hawkeye squad. Following suit, a lot of pregame predictions picked the ‘Huskers to derail things on Friday, but no. Instead we saw a continuation of what we’ve seen so far this season, and that’s an Iowa team that is truly a very, very good team. Now that all the dust has settled, there’s just the Big Ten Championship Game to go. The Black and Gold are a perfect 12-0, and are amazingly one win away from crashing the College Football Playoff.
The Cinderella season continues, but don’t for one minute think this win will garner Iowa hugs across the nation. The quest for respect in the college football world will continue.
As we ponder that notion, though, does it really make that much sense? For most of the season, Utah showed the same type of fundamental philosophy, yet it got a measure of buzz despite not being a name-brand program. Ditto for teams now entrenched with the same style: Stanford, Michigan State, and Michigan (among others), which do indeed have some backing behind their names.
Here’s the reality; Iowa is now one of just two undefeated teams left in the entire country. Say what you will about the schedule, but making it through any conference undefeated is hard to do and deserves respect. The fact that Iowa doesn’t beat itself, plays sound defense, has a quintessential leader under center, and has taken care of business without really too much drama, is worthy of the shot at some really big things.
Now there is just one game left, and you can bet that the Hawkeyes will bring their businesslike attitude into Indianapolis with the same confidence and workmanship that has gotten them this far. They’ll be balanced, and they won’t beat themselves like the Nebraskas and Penn States that are perceived to have better athletes, but which we’ve seen make poor judgments (often in the form of penalties) to swing the balance of a game — and a season.
It’s time to take notice that the Iowa Hawkeyes of 2015 are a complete team. When one unit falls down, another picks it up. Sometimes the collective total is far better than the sum of all the individual parts, and there’s no doubt that’s what Kirk Ferentz has assembled out of nowhere, between the rows of corn and rolling hills of the great state of Iowa.
So get ready Michigan State, or Michigan, or even Ohio State. Whichever of those three teams takes care of business on Saturday would be well advised to not take this team lightly. Show the Hawkeyes respect, unlike the rest of us, or you’ll look up at the scoreboard and wonder how the game got away. Show them respect and live to fight another day.
If only the rest of us would have learned by now.
Phil Harrison is a contributor to The Student Section. He is also a the founder of Big10news.com and featured contributor to collegefootballews.com, talking10.com, and occasionally campusinsiders.com. You can follow him on twitter @PhilHarrisonCFB or email him at email@example.com. If that doesn’t work, you can find him in the doghouse at home.