When the Iowa Hawkeyes lost an uninspired game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers last Saturday, the fan base went to their usual defensive stance of still being able to get to a bowl. That's a far cry from what they were saying before the season, talking about the BCS and even national title hopes.
Still, even at 7-5, they will be telling everyone that their team was successful and, when they are talking to a rival Iowa State fan, that at least they made a bowl.
This might be generalizing too much, I know some Iowa fans who know better. But this is the general fan base of Hawkeye football. Underachieving is what happens nearly every year for this team, and they'll still talk about head coach Kirk Ferentz as a God and won't talk about any flaws in their team.
Good defense, win a bunch of games and a January bowl always means something. Yes, the Outback Bowl and Capital One Bowl mean a whole lot paired next to the GoDaddy.com Bowl and the Kraft Fights Hunger Bowl. If you're not in the national title game, you're just in another exhibition game with added benefits of money and more practice time.
I'm not saying going to a bowl is horrible, but when you're the Iowa Hawkeyes when will you take that next step? The problem I have with the majority of the fan base is that they think this team is a title contender every year, and they're satisfied with the result each year no matter if they are 10-2 or 6-6.
The only consistent thing they've had are good defenses. Sputtering offenses, inconsistent special teams being poor this year, and not being able to defend spread offenses well. They also have been too conservative with the lead, and outside of dominating Penn State they really have had trouble with the Big Ten's elite teams and even some smaller ones like Northwestern.
This isn't a sign of a national title contender, and remains the reason why no one outside of Iowa thinks about this team when they think of the Big Ten. Really, go ask experts about the Big Ten. They'll bring up Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State...but Iowa? Oh, they're that team that really could surprise everyone. Aren't fans sick of hearing that? Fans will point to the polls and tell you that they're always high in them, but let's be honest, who takes preseason polls seriously?
Right now the question is who is to blame, the coaches or the players? Most people blame the coach, and if last night's Sports Sound Off on the local WHO affiliate is any indication, some fans are doing exactly that.
Some fans are saying they aren't "real fans," but they could be the smartest ones.
Since 1999, at the beginning of Ferentz's tenure at Iowa, here are the consecutive records: 1-10, 3-9, 7-5, 11-2, 10-3, 10-2, 7-5, 6-7, 6-6, 9-4, 11-2 and currently 7-5 with a bowl game to go this year. Some good years with two Big Ten titles, two BCS appearances and one win, although one might say a team from the ACC or Big East doesn't represent much of a challenge lately.
That being said, if fans are treating Iowa like a Texas, Ohio State or Florida-like team, how come nobody else in the nation treats them that way? Maybe because they haven't gotten over that hump like they should?
The Iowa State Cyclones are a team that's fans should be happy with getting to a bowl. Iowa fans should be very upset with this season, but the majority of them are just sitting there happy to go to a bowl at 7-5.
Alright, well if you're happy with that, then that's what you'll continue to get with Ferentz. Hawkeye fans should be wanting a national title berth. Paul Rhoads at Iowa State wants to take the team to the next level and compete in the Big 12 each year. Ferentz seems perfectly fine with what he's doing.
He's had the same scheme since 1999, and taking a lot of stuff he learned from Hayden Fry. It's successful, but somebody should tell Ferentz some teams have evolved and maybe he should prepare his teams a little better for spread offenses.
Also, somebody should make him care a little bit more about non-conference road games, being 4-5 since 2003 with a couple of Iowa State blowouts isn't terrific.
The fan base is split, and if you want to keep Ferentz around, that's fine. You'll be good, but don't ever utter the words national title contender or even Big Ten title contender with Ohio State, Wisconsin getting better each year, and now Nebraska entering the conference. Fans who want Ferentz gone want more from their team, and they should.