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Schwartz: Goodbye Dantonio, Hello NFL Draft Season

February 6, 2020

Written by David Schwartz

Hawkeye Nation

Lots happening. Does this feel like a notebook day? Yeah, it feels like a notebook day.

Two topics for the price of one:

Well … bye

The Big Ten lost its greatest acting teacher Tuesday when Michigan State football coach Mike Dantonio, ahem, retired.

He won’t be missed, at least not around Iowa City, where his players routinely suffered career-ending injuries on one play and returned two snaps later, the Hawkeyes’ offensive momentum DOA.

It always felt like Dantonio was the one coach whom Kirk Ferentz openly expressed – through his body language – dislike. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but Dantonio’s MSU was the only team I can recall Iowa running high-impact trick plays against when they were already up two scores. There was no shut-it-down Kirk when Iowa played the Spartans.

Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald rubs Hawkeye fans the wrong way, but there’s a genuine rivalry between Fitzgerald and Iowa that traces back a quarter-century. It’s authentic and there’s nothing underhanded about it – it’s just a good old-fashioned sports rivalry.

Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh irritates people, but that’s just his personality. I’m 91 percent sure our frustration with Penn State’s James Franklin stems from his team’s knack for beating the Hawkeyes in emotionally excruciating ways, especially since after each game and during preseason media events he goes out of his way to praise Ferentz and the Iowa program. We’d love to hate Wisconsin’s Paul Chryst, but dang, he just seems like too nice a guy.

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Not Dantonio. He’s gone, and we should be fine with that. Even grateful. When a team beat Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, that team knew they accomplished something important. Meyer’s departure – regardless of what one felt about him – chased away an important part of Big Ten football that we can’t back.

Dantonio won a lot of games. He won a Big Ten Championship by beating the Hawkeyes and made a College Football Playoff. But outside of East Lansing, who 20 years from now will look back fondly on the Dantonio era? Who will look back at him at all?

More chutes than ladders

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Now that the Super Bowl has ended the NFL finally knows its draft order.

Writers from NFL.com released their first mock draft, which, as expected, included two Hawkeyes: A.J. Epenesa and Tristan Wirfs. Unexpected, however, was their prediction that both would slide deeper into the first round than many had projected during the season.

At one point both projected out as Top 10 picks. Now, Epenesa came in at 16th to the Atlanta Falcons, while Wirfs slid all the way to the Seattle Seahawks at No. 27.

So what changed?

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For one, mock drafts are educated guesses, not quantifiable data sets. Second, draft order changes throughout the season. Teams drafting in the Top 10 after week 5 or 6 might make a run toward the NFL playoffs, altering the draft order along with the needs of which team is drafting in what spot.

Neither Epenesa’s nor Wirfs’s performance declined during the season. If anything, Epenesa’s last few games validated every positive grade experts had thrown at him over the last year.

So it probably comes down to two things: First, no one really knows anything substantial at this point in the evaluation process, and second, especially in the case of Wirfs, he’s a first-round talent who just happens to have other offensive-line first-round talent evaluated ahead of him and not enough teams in need of a first-round offensive lineman. Supply and demand, NFL style.

* Talk with David Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.

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