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Howe’s Friday 5: Patrick McCaffery, NFL Draft, B1G Bowl Projections

November 22, 2019

Written by Rob Howe

Hawkeye Nation

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Full steam ahead toward Thanksgiving with Hawkeye sports in full gear. Have your schedules handy.

The football team wraps up its regular season with a home finale Saturday against Illinois and a Black Friday road trip to Nebraska one week from today. The men’s basketball team is heading to Las Vegas for Turkey Day, while the women will be in Puerto Rico. Wrestling travels to Iowa State on Sunday.

We have plenty to talk about in this week’s 5:

5. Real life issues have a way of putting sports in perspective, and we learned that again last week. Iowa freshman forward Patrick McCaffery has been sidelined indefinitely with health issues related to the cancer he beat five years ago. Fortunately, the disease has not returned and the latest complications aren’t life threatening.

The son of Hawkeye head coach Fran McCaffery has struggled with residual effects from the thyroid cancer. He missed time, periodically, for similar setbacks while playing at Iowa City West High.

There’s a constant challenge of balancing the necessary medications with training needed for high level athletics. It’s a unique situation.

“There’s not many test cases of it. But when you go through what his body went through — you talk about his weight, you talk about his energy level, you talk about his sleeping, his eating, his digestive system, it’s completely different than what anybody else goes through, and it takes a huge toll when you are going against the athletes the caliber of the guys he’s going against right now,” Fran McCaffery said on Wednesday.

“So it’s been a huge adjustment for him physically and obviously mentally, as well, as a result of that. He’s doing the best he can, and we’re working with our medical staff and our nutrition folks to try to help him.”

That weighs on a coach, especially when he’s a father. And then there’s Patrick’s brother, starting point guard Connor McCaffery, trying to compete while watching his younger brother suffer without playing the sport they both love.

Patrick could come back this season if the medical staff and nutritionists can get him on track. He could red shirt. Time will tell.

He is practicing. That’s a good sign. Here’s hoping things continue trending in the right direction.

4. Kirk Ferentz requested this week that we in the media not ask any of his underclassmen for their thoughts on leaving early for the NFL until after the regular season. Iowa’s coach wants them focusing on winning out.

That’s reasonable. It’s only another week. And the players likely agree with the approach.

The timing makes sense, too. We don’t interview A.J. Epenesa and Tristan Wirfs during regular Tuesday media availability because they have class. That changes this coming week. Students are out for Thanksgiving break, therefore making Iowa’s top juniors available for questions.

Mock Drafts are what they are, non-NFL player personnel people making educated guesses on what teams will do. They’re not very accurate.

Underclassmen do receive thorough feedback from the NFL advisory board before needing to make their final decision in January. And other factors play a role in determining whether to stay or go.

I think Epenesa and Wirfs leave with the thought that they’ve proven enough in college. Sure, they could improve by coming back, but an athlete’s window for making NFL money is small and injuries a strong possibility, just ask Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who suffered a season-ending hip injury last week that could change his draft stock depending on recovery.

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Four Iowa juniors left early after last season. Tight ends T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant were chosen among the Top 20 picks. Amani Hooker and Anthony Nelson were selected in the fourth round, and both are seeing snaps as rookies.

Epenesa and Wirfs won’t be the only Hawkeyes considering their options. Detroit natives Alaric Jackson and Chauncey Golston are productive starters in their fourth years at Iowa. Jackson is a three-year starter at left offensive tackle.

Safety is thought to be a shallow position in this year’s draft. Perhaps Geno Stone takes a look at this chances.

It used to be that underclassmen would jump only if they were likely first-round picks, maybe in the top two rounds. That’s trending in a different direction, as evidenced by Hooker and Nelson. Players are understanding more that their shelf lives are short and development can happen in the NFL just like college. And they get paid and can work toward a lucrative second contract.

3. Seriously? Some of you people are upset because Iowa students stormed the Kinnick Stadium field after the Hawkeyes knocked off previously unbeaten Minnesota last Saturday.

I get that crediting the hated Golden Gophers hurts, but they were 9-0 and ranked eighth in the country. With the possible exception of winning at Iowa State, it’s Iowa’s best victory of the season.

Like most of the players, the Iowa students are here for four or five years. These opportunities roll around on a limited basis. Have fun.

Come on, folks. I get that we live in an age of outrage, but lighten up.

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2. On paper, the Iowa wrestling team looks like a heavy favorite Sunday when it competes at rival Iowa State. After what happened last season, the Hawkeyes know better than to fall into any false sense of security.

The Cyclones fell 19-18 in Iowa City as possibly even bigger underdogs than they are this time around. They were ahead with three matches to go.

Third-year coach Kevin Dresser has revived the ISU program. The former Hawkeye won the National Wrestling Coaches’ Association Coach of the Year for ’19.

Assistants Derek St. John and Brent Metcalf are former Iowa national champions. They’re helping rebuild ISU. FloWrestling outlines how an upset Sunday could happen.

The Hawkeyes have won 15 straight, 30 of the last 31, and 54 of the last 58 meetings in this series. Many of the matchups in recent years have been lopsided.

It’s good to see it more competitive. The sport benefits from it.

1. I will preface this by saying I don’t have a firm grasp on Iowa’s bowl possibilities. And my track record in figuring it out before the official announcement likely falls below the Mendoza Line.

But Jimmy Crack Corn and I don’t care. I’m going to write something here about bowls because that’s what we do at this time of year.

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A New Year’s Six bowl is a pipe dream. Penn State, Michigan and Wisconsin sit ahead in that line with wins against Iowa. At best, you have to figure Iowa comes in at No. 5 in the Big Ten pecking order with second-ranked Ohio State joining that aforementioned threesome. Despite losing at Iowa last week, Minnesota could end up ahead of the Hawkeyes if it wins the West Division.

I think Ohio State runs the table and heads to the playoff. The Rose Bowl then picks another program from the Big Ten pool. A third conference team then could make a New Year’s Six Bowl. Up next would be the Citrus and Outback Bowls.

Minnesota, Michigan and Penn State all have played in the Citrus since ’15. Iowa (twice), Michigan and Wisconsin appeared in the Outback in that time frame.

Remember, the league and bowls’ goal is to rotate the teams to different events as much as possible. That looks tricky this year.

With all that in mind, as well as my ineptitude in this area, here’s my best guess before Week 13:

CFP – Ohio State (13-0)

Rose – Wisconsin (10-3)

Cotton – Penn State (10-2)

Citrus – Iowa (9-3)

Outback – Minnesota (10-2)

Holiday – Michigan (9-3)

Taxslayer – Indiana (8-4)

Redbox – Illinois (7-5)

Quick Lane – Michigan State (6-6)

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