A Twitter poll conducted by Big Ten Network early in the game between Iowa and Indiana revealed all we need to know about the 2012 Iowa Hawkeyes. They asked fans to vote on which of the two teams will end the season bowl eligible; Iowa, Indiana, both or neither.
The results are irrelevant. The real issue is that Iowa is currently considered Indiana's peer in football. After I came to terms with that, the loss seemed almost secondary.
I came into this season of Hawkeye Football with just one personal goal, and I suspected this largely inexperienced team, loaded with question marks, would test that goal.
My goal was to exercise patience and remain positive no matter how much the team might struggle.
Over the course of this miserable season, I have written numerous calls for perspective from my fellow Hawkeye fans. I supported a struggling quarterback, called for understanding after a player arrest, defended a coach under fire and criticized fans for booing the team during an ugly loss to Penn State.
After losing to the Hoosiers in a sport that isn't basketball, the time has come to lose the rose-colored glasses. Iowa is staring down the barrel of its first losing season since 2000, and the context surrounding this failure of a campaign is far uglier than that faced by the 2000 Hawkeyes, who were on a distinct upswing that would lead to an Alamo Bowl victory, followed by perhaps the best three-year stretch in the history of the program.
Let's take a look at the winners and losers from the juggernaut in Bloomington.
If a tree falls on Iowa's bowl hopes, but nobody is there to see it, does it make a sound?
Between bad weather and a general disinterest in crappy football, there were plenty of great seats still available when the Hawkeyes and Hoosiers kicked off an hour later than originally scheduled.
This led one Iowa fan to make perhaps the finest hopeful prediction of the season.
"According to the coaches, [James] Vandenberg lights it up in practice," said Kevin Huston, a lifelong Hawkeye fan from Independence, Iowa.
"If no one shows up and it feels like a practice, he's going to put up 40," Huston added.
He then proceeded to suffer through yet another game in which Vandenberg failed to match his supposed practice-field efficiency. All to the delight of the dozens of Hoosier fans not waiting in line for tickets to the basketball season-opener.
Winter can be a cold and unforgiving season in the Midwest, but Iowa fans with the means to travel can typically count on a built-in vacation to a warm-weather location, courtesy of the Hawkeyes' bowl invite.
Two wins shy of bowl eligibility with three games remaining, including showdowns with Michigan and Nebraska, it looks incredibly doubtful Iowa fans will be granted the opportunity to break out shorts in late December.
Indiana and Purdue represented Iowa's best chances to obtain bowl eligibility. After dropping this game to Indiana, it will likely be comparatively quiet in the Cedar Rapids airport come bowl season.
Wrap your head around this concept: Iowa played a November football game against Indiana, and the Hoosiers were favored. And they covered.
Anyone who picked the Hawkeyes–for purely entertainment purposes, of course–has clearly not watched this team enough or they would have known better, but that doesn't make the reality of the situation any less depressing.
Vegas had Indiana favored over Iowa in a meaningful football game. They were right. As of Saturday, Indiana is better than Iowa at football. If anyone needs me, I will be in my room sobbing into my pillow.
There is plenty of blame to go around, but the regression of James Vandenberg at quarterback has certainly hurt the 2012 Iowa Hawkeyes.
A recent article in Deadspin pretty much lays out the entire depressing step backward:
Last year, Iowa's quarterback threw for 250 yards in five games and had multiple passing touchdowns in nine. He hasn't accomplished either feat through nine games this year. There are 14 players in the Big Ten with more touchdowns thrown than Vandenberg, including three who play for Minnesota. This is not, however, due to a lack of opportunity—Vandenberg is third in the conference in passing attempts. The problem lies elsewhere. One out of every 16 passes James Vandenberg threw in 2011 resulted in a touchdown. In 2012, it's down to one out of every 75.
That's right, Minnesota has THREE quarterbacks who have thrown more touchdowns than James Vandenberg. Just to clarify, that is the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, not the Vikings.