By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – With the Iowa football team still in the hunt for a Big Ten West Division title, the two guys who can’t seem to agree on anything about Hawkeye sports were at it again.
Mr. Optimist and Mr. Pessimist waged yet another debate shortly after Iowa had defeated Illinois 33-23 this past Saturday to improve to 9-2 overall and 6-2 in the Big Ten.
Iowa will close out the regular season on Black Friday against Nebraska in Lincoln, Nebraska.
For Iowa to win the West Division for the first time since 2015, it’ll have to defeat Nebraska and then hope that Minnesota defeats Wisconsin on Saturday in Minneapolis.
Should both of those things happen, Iowa would represent the West Division in the Big Ten Championship game for just the second time ever.
Here is a copy of the latest debate:
Mr. Optimist: I like Iowa’s chances of winning the West Division since Wisconsin will be under tremendous pressure and will face a lot of emotion on Saturday when it plays a pretty good Minnesota team on Senior Day in Minneapolis.
Mr. Pessimist: I wouldn’t get your hopes up, considering Wisconsin has a 23-3 record against Minnesota dating back to the 1995 season.
Mr. Optimist: Iowa leads the country in interceptions (21) and ranks third nationally in takeaways (26). The Hawkeyes have 85 interceptions since 2017, more than any team in the country. Eleven different Hawkeyes have at least one interception this season. Iowa is plus-18 in turnover margin in its nine wins.
Mr. Pessimist: Purdue shredded Iowa for 377 passing yards and zero interceptions in a 24-7 victory on Oct. 16 at Kinnick Stadium. Purdue receiver David Bell had 11 catches for a Kinnick Stadium record 240 receiving yards and one touchdown. The loss to Purdue could ultimately keep Iowa from winning the Big Ten West Division.
Mr. Optimist: Iowa has dominated the series against Nebraska, winning six games in a row, which is impressive.
Mr. Pessimist: Only twice since 2014 has Nebraska finished with a winning record.
Mr. Optimist: Iowa extended its winning streak against Illinois to eight games with Saturday’s win and has won 13 of the last 14 games in the series and 16 of the last 19.
Mr. Pessimist: Illinois hasn’t finished with a winning record since going 7-6 in 2011 and has only had four winning seasons since 2000.
Mr. Optimist: Iowa has a 62-23 record since the start of the 2015 season, including 7-0 against Minnesota, 6-0 against Iowa State and 3-2 in bowl games.
Mr. Pessimist: Since 2015, Iowa has only won one Big Ten West Division title, is 2-5 against Wisconsin, 3-4 against Purdue and Northwestern and lost to Stanford 45-16 in the 2016 Rose Bowl and to Florida 30-3 in the 2017 Outback Bowl.
Mr. Optimist: Iowa rushed for 172 yards in Saturday’s victory over Illinois, and that might be a sign that the running game is finally starting to click.
Mr. Pessimist: Iowa only averaged 3.3 yards per carry against Illinois, has been held to fewer than 100 rushing yards in five games this season and entered the Illinois game ranked 12th in the Big Ten in rushing, averaging just 109.6 yards per game.
Mr. Optimist: Iowa has seven players with at least 15 catches and seven players with at least one touchdown reception.
Mr. Pessimist: Iowa only has 11 touchdown receptions as a team, which is two fewer than opponents have caught against the Hawkeyes, and Iowa doesn’t have a player with more than three touchdown catches.
Mr. Optimist: Iowa has won at least nine games under Kirk Ferentz for the ninth time in 23 seasons, and for the fourth time since 2015.
Mr. Pessimist: Iowa won nine games in 2018, but also finished just 5-4 in conference play.
Mr. Optimist: Iowa started the season with victories over Indiana and Iowa State, both of which were ranked at the time.
Mr. Pessimist: Indiana is winless in conference play at 0-8 and 2-9 overall, while Iowa State is currently 6-5 and no longer ranked.
Mr. Optimist: Iowa started two true freshmen wide receivers against Illinois on Saturday, marking the first time in the Ferentz era that two true freshmen receivers have started a game as Keagan Johnson made his seventh career start and Arland Bruce made his first.
Mr. Pessimist: That doesn’t speak well about Iowa’s depth at wide receiver, which has taken a hit with two receivers – Quavon Matthews and Desmond Hutson – having recently entered the transfer portal.
Mr. Optimist: Only three times since 2000 has Iowa finished with a losing record and this season will mark the 19th time since 2001 that Iowa will have received a bowl invitation.
Mr. Pessimist: Freshmen receivers Keagan Johnson and Arland Bruce both were just 2 years old the last time Iowa won a Big Ten title in 2004.
Mr. Optimist: Sophomore quarterback Alex Padilla has led Iowa to three straight wins and is 2-0 as a starter.
Mr. Pessimist: Padilla is only completing 47.0 percent of his passes and his efficiency rating of 105.4 is worse than Spencer Petras’ 120.1 rating.
Mr. Optimist: Padilla’s stat line against Illinois, which included just six completions in 17 attempts for 83 yards is misleading due to at least five or six drops.
Mr. Pessimist: A quarterback is only as good as his receivers and drops have been a problem for Iowa throughout the season.
Mr. Optimist: Iowa has had 18 offensive linemen selected in the NFL Draft under Kirk Ferentz, including five in the first round.
Mr. Pessimist: Since 2010, Wisconsin has led the Big Ten in rushing three times, and has finished ranked third or higher in the conference in rushing nine times.
Iowa, on the other hand, has finished 10th or lower in the Big Ten in rushing six times during that same 11-year stretch, and has finished no higher than fifth.
Mr. Optimist: Nebraska has adjusted Scott Frost’s contract and will give him at least one more season to keep failing at his alma mater.
Mr. Pessimist: It appears that Scott Frost only has one more season to keep failing at his alma mater, and there’s always the chance that Nebraska might actually hire a competent head coach.
Mr. Optimist: Sixth-year senior Caleb Shudak connected on a career-high four field goals (51, 48, 29, 32) against Illinois this past Saturday. Shudak tied his career-long with a 51-yard field goal in the second quarter. He has three field goals of 50-yards or better this season and has made 18-of-21 field-goal attempts this season.
Mr. Pessimist: Shudak’s success, especially from long distance, is proof of Iowa’s inability to finish drives on offense.
Mr. Optimist: Eleven different Hawkeyes have at least one interception this season. Iowa is also plus-18 in turnover margin in its nine wins.
Mr. Pessimist: Iowa is minus-six in turnover margin in its two losses.