Let’s revise Iowa’s bowl expectations:
Their only goal this bowl season should be to make it look like they’ve practiced.
This is not a lofty goal. And yet, here we are. After five consecutive bowl losses in which the Hawkeyes have been outscored a combined 108-10 in the first half, we’ve reached critical mass.
Look like they’ve practiced. Look competent. Win, lose, whatever. Doesn’t matter.
Just show your fans that the tens upon thousands of dollars spent on bowl expenses such as lodging, food, excursions, equipment, and salaries were not wasted. The situation has traveled beyond embarrassing for the program.
Later today, the Hawkeyes will announce to which bowl game they’ll be traveling. Let’s view their bowl selection as an accomplishment, but not a major accomplishment. Nearly half of every Division I college football team will play in a bowl game. For all of the joy college football gives us each fall, it has also given us bowl season, sports’ equivalent of the green participation ribbon.
A college football team in 2017 should not tout five consecutive bowl appearances unless those appearances are consistently playoff/BCS-level bowls. Say, no worse than a Cotton appearance. Maybe Capital One.
Are bowl trips fun? Sure. Fans enjoy them. Hopefully the players and coaches enjoy them.
But let’s call bowl games what they are. They’re exhibitions. Which means, taken at a base level, most bowl games are opportunities to go on vacation to watch an exhibition game.
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Yet we assign value to these games, even if they don’t matter to standings or playoffs. We assign value because we want our team to win, and the players – far more than us – also want to win.
Now we’re back to the original point. Presumably, Iowa’s players and coaches want to win, and yet year after year after year they’ve gotten their brains beat in. They’ve lost their last five by an average of about 20 points.
If they want to improve, we should be supportive, so let’s lower our expectations. Let’s root for the Hawkeyes to keep it close – whoever they play. Let’s set modest goals:
• 3-5 first downs per quarter.
• A halftime lead or, at worst, no worse than a one-score halftime deficit.
• A quarterback who doesn’t get beaten so badly that his organs start to leak from his body.
• At least some sense of hope either entering or during the fourth quarter
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When a kid hits rock bottom in school, parents try to build her back up. If she gets an F on a math test, you find out what went wrong. Maybe her study habits aren’t great. She tries harder, eliminates distractions. The next test she scores a C. In a perfect world, she’d be scoring As and Bs on tests, but considering where she was, the C is a significant improvement, so you praise her and help her work toward a B on the next test.
Iowa’s regular seasons consistently rank between pretty good and great. However, when it comes to bowl games, they’re the kid scoring an F on his test. We’re looking for improvement this bowl season, not a 36 on the ACT. Give us the C.
Just keep it close, Hawkeyes. Prepare the right way. Show up. Represent yourselves and your school.
If you lose a competitive game, that’s OK. We’ll be there to put our arms around you. And the next time – who knows – maybe you’ll finally find a way to win again.
One step at a time.
* Talk with David Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.