Schwartz: Notes – Men’s Hoops, Outback Bowl, and Iowa Tight Ends

December 6, 2018

Written by David Schwartz

So here we are, gameday for Iowa-Iowa State hoops, and all that’s at stake for the Hawkeyes is a potential three-game losing streak after such a promising start.

Momentum changes course quickly and cruelly in basketball. One day you’re 6-0, ranked, and last season feels a million miles in the rear-view mirror. The next you’re 6-2, 40 bad minutes away from 6-3, and in possession of a one-way ticket out of the Top 25.

Worse, doubt returns. The questions return. That’s what tonight’s game is about: We’re on the lookout for proof that this year will be better than last. Non-conference wins over Oregon, Pitt and UConn should be all the signs we need, but those wins might as well be from another season at this point.

Is that fair to the Hawkeyes? It doesn’t matter whether it’s fair or not. It’s just the way it is—especially if the most recent win is immediately followed by losses to Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Iowa State.

So, yeah, tonight’s game is pretty big, and not just because it’s the Hawkeyes versus the Cyclones.

Tonight’s game is a chance to pick up yet another important nonconference win, but even more pivotal, it’s the opportunity for the Hawkeyes to feel good about themselves for putting a stop to a two-game slide on their own terms.

If they do lose tonight, the losing streak runs to three, but it likely stays there because after ISU the Hawkeyes get a couple of weeks of games against the likes of Northern Iowa, Western Carolina, Savannah State, and Bryant.

All are winnable games that would take them to 10-3, but 11-2 with a win over talented Iowa State compared with 10-3 against lesser competitors would go a long way toward rebuilding morale.

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Iowa and Mississippi State, scheduled to meet the morning of Jan. 1 in the Outback Bowl, opened in Vegas with an over/under of 44 points.

It’s the third-lowest line of college football’s exhibition season, behind only Northern Illinois-University of Alabama-Birmingham in the in the Boca Raton Bowl (43 points), and TCU versus California in the Cheez-It Bowl (40.5).

The Hawkeyes and Bulldogs will have to put in some work to reach the over. Iowa’s team defense ranks seventh in the country out of 130 teams. The Bulldogs sit fourth.

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Plus, the Hawkeyes will be without one of the best tight ends in the country, Noah Fant, who will not play in the bowl game after declaring last week for the NFL Draft.


And speaking of tight ends, what else is there that one can say about T.J. Hockenson at this point? He won the John Mackey Award on Wednesday, an honor saved for the best tight end in the country.

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He and Dallas Clark are the only two Hawkeyes to accomplish the feat during the Kirk Ferentz era, and arguably other than offensive line, no position has been more consistently successful under Ferentz.

The list of NFL-caliber tight ends reads like a who’s who: Clark, Scott Chandler, Tony Moeaki, Brandon Myers, C.J. Fiedorowicz, George Kittle. Tony Jackson and Erik Jensen. Fant. Hockenson. I’m sure I’m forgetting someone.

Even by Iowa’s high standards for tight ends, the Hawkeyes topped themselves in 2018 by running out two of the top five in all of college football.

Including Hockenson, who stands alone atop the mountain.

* Talk with David Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.

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