Questions pile up for Iowa football

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The Iowa football team signs the fight son after the Iowa-Rutgers game at High Point Solution Stadium at Piscataway on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016. The Hawkeyes defeated the Knights, 14-7. (The Daily Iowan/Margaret Kispert)

Jordan Hansen, [email protected]

After another close game against an opponent originally thought to be inferior, the Iowa football team has some questions to answer.

Mostly, how is the team going to pull itself out of the funk it’s been in for the last two weeks? A loss to North Dakota State was bad by any stretch of the imagination and a 7-point win against Rutgers did little to relieve some of the nervousness and fear that’s beginning to surround this season.

It’s not the type of fear you get from watching a horror movie but rather the type that comes from thinking about the unknown. Things rarely go as planned in any season, but it seems something has just been, well, off this year.

Now anyone on the Iowa football team will tell you that he doesn’t listen to “outside” noise, but after a Rose Bowl appearance in January, it would have been literally impossible to not have some expectations the following season.

This isn’t to say the Hawkeyes are doomed (far from it), but things are not perfect in Iowa City, and it might be time to start tempering expectations. Can Iowa still make a bowl game and possibly the Big Ten Championship? Absolutely. But there’s an increasingly good chance they won’t do the latter if the Hawkeyes don’t address a number of issues facing them.

Nebraska and Wisconsin both look better than expected — the West Division isn’t necessarily Iowa’s to take. Tommy Armstrong looks competent (even good, at times) under center for the Cornhuskers, and the Badgers keep beating top-10 teams. Again, Iowa certainly still can win the West, but it’s no longer an assumed commodity.

So where do the Hawkeyes go from here?

The answer, really, is forward. It’s now Homecoming Week, and Northwestern comes to town this weekend. The Wildcats are coming off a series of disappointing losses and lost their season-opening Big Ten game to Nebraska. Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald despises Iowa (breaking your arm against a team does that) and will have his team ready.

The Hawkeyes have struggled against the Wildcats throughout the years (though not the past few) and this year won’t be any easier. Fitzgerald’s teams have mostly defended well, and run the ball well the last few years. This could spell trouble. Adding to the fire is quarterback Clayton Thorson, who is the type of mobile quarterback who often gives Iowa fits.

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