Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE
I venture into the heart of darkness to discuss our bitter rivals on the eve of Saturday's
pillow fight grudge match.
Our hatred of everything Iowa cannot be quenched, but at least we can attempt to understand it. Ross Binder, the
Minister of Propaganda for Pravda one of the managers at Black Heart Gold Pants delves into the Heart of Darkness to tell us more about the Hawkeyes:
T-Mill: Both teams absolutely need this game to just qualify for a bowl game. Is that more of an indictment on how bad Purdue or Iowa has been?
Ross: Honestly, I have no idea. Technically, the path to a bowl game is a little wider for Iowa -- they could lose this game and win their last two games and get to 6-6. But those two games are at Michigan and home against Nebraska, so... yeah. If Iowa loses this game, they aren't going bowling. I'm not sure which team is worse, though. Purdue is on a 5-game losing streak; Iowa's on a 3-game losing streak. Then again, every team Purdue's lost to might go to a bowl game (or at least be bowl eligible, in the case of Penn State and Ohio State). Iowa lost to Central Michigan and Indiana. Let's just agree that we're both pretty spectacularly inept this year.
T-Mill: James Vandenberg returned as one of the most experienced QBs in the league and has only four TDs. Seriously, WTF happened here?
Ross: Greg Davis.
For the non-pithy answer... the truth is it's been a confluence of events. Losing his best receive (Marvin McNutt) has hurt more than we ever expected and the transition into a new offensive scheme (mapped out by Greg Davis) has been painfully rough. Vandy excelled at the passing game Ken O'Keefe utilized, which featured a lot of play-action and downfield throws. Davis' passing game has stripped a lot of that away (although we've seen it return in bits over the last month or so) and replaced it with more short passes to the sidelines. Unfortunately, Vandenberg isn't as good at that and Iowa doesn't have the receivers to make that system work well, either. I also think the pressure of being "the man" for this offense has been getting to Vandenberg, which has led to some devolution in his mechanics. But the end result is that we're left with a painfully awful passing game.
T-Mill: I am convinced AIRBHG is real. You now have the floor to tell of his evils especially if it means no Mark Weisman this week.
Ross: Of course He's real. It's not like we'd throw a party for a fake deity. That would be ridiculous. He was on a real rampage earlier this year, causing Marcus Coker and Mika'il McCall to transfer and felling Jordan Canzeri with an ACL injury in spring practice. But He's been much quieter this fall. Damon Bullock, the RB1 entering the season, missed a handful of games after a concussion and Weisman, his shockingly great replacement, has been out the last few weeks with ankle and groin injuries (he's also expected to be out this week). Maybe He's starting to feel sorry for us. I don't know. If just AIRBHG was the only thing behind the dismal state of Iowa's offense. But who knows -- maybe Greg Davis is one of his acolytes too...
T-Mill: Is this season bad enough to really cost Ferentz his job?
The primary reason why he won't lose his job is the $21 million Iowa would owe him if they fired him (great job by us to lock him up until 2020 with a massive buyout) after this season. I mean, corn prices have been tremendous this year and BTN is still a huge cash cow and all, but... that pill is still too big to swallow. There's also virtually no chance of Ferentz just deciding to step down at the end of the season, either. The public backlash against him isn't yet that severe as to make his return completely untenable. Iowa fans are very frustrated -- by this season, by how ugly this team is to watch, by the last few mediocre years -- but Ferentz hasn't yet burned through all of his goodwill with most fans.And, crucially, attendance hasn't really started plummeting yet.
That said, I'm curious to see how many empty seats there are in Kinnick this Saturday, I'm terrified that Kinnick will be half-red for our game with Nebraska on Black Friday, and I'm really wondering what season ticket sales will look like next year. When Iowa sees a hit there... that, ultimately, is when Ferentz is going to be in trouble.
T-Mill: Do you have any fear of Purdue getting its first win in Iowa City in 20 years given the Boilermakers' five game losing streak?
Ross: Of course. Iowa just lost to Indiana and got spanked by Northwestern in their last two games. We lost to Central freaking Michigan (who's won all of one game since beating Iowa). This is a bad Iowa team, with a hopelessly incompetent offense and an increasingly gassed defense. They can absolutely lose to anyone. Plus, while Purdue has looked terrible at times (what was going on up in Minneapolis, man?), they looked impressive in almost-beating Notre Dame and Ohio State. If that Purdue team shows up, they could absolutely, positively beat Iowa, no matter where the game is.
T-Mill: Finally, Let's talk some basketball. Are the Hawkeyes an NCAA team this year?
Ross: My heart says "yes," but my head says "not yet." Fran McCaffery is looking like a really outstanding hire (he's been, in so many ways, everything that Todd Lickliter wasn't) -- he's developed the talent he inherited, recruited exciting talent both among the blue chip prospects (4* guys like Adam Woodbury and Mike Gesell) and among the diamonds in the rough (Aaron White, Melsahn Basabe), and has Iowa playing a really exciting, fun style of basketball (although a little more defense would be nice). But this year might just be too soon for Iowa to get back to NCAA contention.
Iowa is going to be relying heavily on freshmen (the aforementioned Woodbury and Gesell) and while they may prove to be very good, they're still just freshmen. Iowa's also without their best player from last year, Matt Gatens, and he provided Iowa with so many things -- leadership, defense, outside shooting, scoring punch -- that replacing him is going to be no small matter. Iowa's non-conference season is painfully weak, which should be good for picking up wins -- but bad for propping up our RPI. And, oh yeah, the Big Ten looks absolutely brutal this year. Indiana looks outstanding, Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State look very good, Minnesota should bounce back with Mbakwe back, and I expect Wisconsin and you guys to be your usual solid selves. Even the bottom of the league should be pretty scrappy. All those things combined make it hard for me to see this as an NCAA Tourney team. I hope I'm wrong, but I think it will be a step too far for this team. If they don't make the NCAA Tournament, I'm hopeful that they can put together a nice run in the NIT and get things primed for next season.