By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – It usually takes something special for Mr. Optimist and Mr. Pessimist to make an appearance, and few things are more special than the start of another Iowa football season.
So here they are with another debate in which they continue to see things Hawkeye related from a completely different perspective, although, they actually agree on one topic for the first time ever.
You’ll understand why when you realize the topic.
Iowa will play Northern Illinois in the season opener on Sept. 1 at Kinnick Stadium, continuing a series that is far more competitive now than it used to be, a fact that is addressed in this latest debate.
Mr. Pessimist: Wisconsin has had four different head football coaches since 2005 and seems to be doing just fine, including winning five of the last six games against Iowa.
Mr. Optimist: Iowa has an 8-1 record against Northern Illinois with four of the victories by at least 24 points and two by more than 50 points.
Mr. Pessimist: The last four games in the series have been decided by 13 or fewer points with the Huskies winning the most recent matchup, 30-27, in 2013 at Kinnick Stadium.
Mr. Optimist: Iowa appears loaded at tight end and defensive end; has a quarterback returning who threw 26 touchdown passes and just six interceptions last season, along with a reliable kicker, who made 11-of-13 field-goal attempts last season, two safeties with starting experience and a very favorable schedule on paper.
Mr. Pessimist: Iowa is either thin, inexperienced or flawed at linebacker where all three starters have to be replaced, including unanimous All-American Josey Jewell; at running back where Akrum Wadley’s open-field wizardry will be sorely missed; at punter where nobody reliable has emerged, and at receiver where a lack of playmakers has been a problem that has festered for years. And in the name of Central and Western Michigan, haven’t you learned by now to never assume anything about the schedule.
Mr. Optimist: Iowa has won at least eight games in four of the last five seasons, including a school record 12 victories in 2015.
Mr. Pessimist: Iowa has lost at least five games in seven of the last eight seasons, including eight losses in 2012.
Mr. Optimist: Iowa has won at least seven games in 14 of 19 seasons under Kirk Ferentz and has been bowl eligible in 16 of the last 17 seasons.
Mr. Pessimist: Iowa has lost at least five games in 12 seasons under Ferentz and is just 7-8 in bowl games under him.
Mr. Optimist: Urban Meyer has made some questionable decisions, but still is an outstanding head coach with three national titles to his credit at two different schools.
Mr. Pessimist: Urban Meyer allowed a habitual wife-beater to be on his staff for three years at Ohio State and left his job at Florida under disturbing circumstances, which included more than 30 player arrests during his six seasons in Gainesville.
Mr. Optimist: Jim Harbaugh has led Michigan to 10 victories in two of his three seasons as head coach for his alma mater.
Mr. Pessimist: Jim Harbaugh is winless against Ohio State and 1-2 against Michigan State, and has led Michigan to no better than third place in the Big Ten East Division.
Mr. Optimist: Former Nebraska quarterback Scott Frost is being described as a perfect fit and touted as the answer to his alma mater’s ongoing problems in football.
Mr. Pessimist: He had better be the answer because Tom Osborne is 81 years old and Bob Devaney has been dead since 1997.
Mr. Optimist: Iowa fans deserve high praise and much respect for making the Wave the greatest new tradition in sports.
Mr. Pessimist: For once, I have to agree with you because even a glass-half-empty person like myself appreciates how the Wave has touched the hearts of people from across the nation and beyond.
Mr. Optimist: Iowa’s first four games are at home this season, including the Big Ten opener against Wisconsin on Sept. 22.
Mr. Pessimist: Five of Iowa’s last eight games are on the road, including back-to-back games at Penn State and Purdue in weeks eight and nine.
Mr. Optimist: Five-star forward Trayce Jackson-Davis has Iowa among his final six schools, along with Indiana, Purdue, Michigan State, UCLA and Wake Forest. For Iowa to have made it this far with a heralded recruit from out of state is quite impressive under the circumstances.
Mr. Pessimist: Maybe so, but I’ll still take the field in this case. And you make recruiting sound similar to playing horse shoes where being close actually matters.
Mr. Optimist: An already great game-day atmosphere in and around Kinnick Stadium will be even better with the water tower finally and proudly displaying the tiger hawk logo.
Mr. Pessimist: Never have understood the strong interest in wanting a tiger hawk painted on the water tower. I guess it’ll give fans something to stare at during the grueling television timeouts, at least those who can see it.
Mr. Optimist: I believe Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta when he says improving the fan experience would be the primary motivation to start selling alcohol at Kinnick Stadium rather than a desire to make money.
Mr. Pessimist: You also probably believe that the risk of losing at Northern Iowa and at Drake in men's basketball has nothing to do with Iowa and Iowa State refusing to play them on the road.
Mr. Optimist: I’m intrigued by the idea of building a new basketball arena in downtown Iowa City in order to be closer to the students and to the restaurants and bars in the area.
Mr. Pessimist: There hardly would be any restaurants or bars left in the area because space for a new arena, and adequate parking, probably would take up more than half of downtown Iowa City.