I always promised that I wouldn't ever get hot-takey in my columns, but I feel like it isn't too hot to write that Northwestern was an absolute embarrassment against Iowa.
You know what happened: Iowa used an efficient offense, some big plays, a blocked punt and crushing defense to jump out to a 38-7 halftime lead. The Wildcats were averaging 1.8 yards per play at halftime, while Iowa was averaging 7.6. It was complete and utter domination that really didn't change in the second half as the Wildcats ran out the clock. That's embarrassing as it is, but let's talk about just how terrible this was beyond the numbers:
- Northwestern was as badly prepared as I have ever seen a football team. And out of a bye! How is that possible? They didn't see outside zone to the left coming? They left guys wide open on those deep play-action slants over the middle? Those are literally the only two things Iowa does. And Iowa will readily admit that! You just have to out-execute them.
- Speaking of execution, that was an absolutely terrible defensive effort in every sense. The linebackers were out of position, Nick VanHoose was continually picked on and the defensive line (more on them in a minute) was as ineffective as it's been all season.
- Iowa has some good offensive and defensive lines, but Northwestern was just dominated in the trenches all day. The offensive line got no run push and was even worse in pass protection, while the right side of the defensive line — supposedly a strength, with Dean Lowry and Greg Kuhar on that side — single-handedly created an NFL Draft highlight tape for Iowa's star left tackle, Brandon Scherff.
- Trevor Siemian was supposedly healthier today, but his decision making was extremely poor. He held onto the ball far too long, and while some of that was on the offensive line, his consistent failure to get rid of the ball is troubling.
I could go on, but you get the picture. This was a complete and utter failure on all levels for Northwestern. As I wrote earlier this week, Northwestern has an issue with some combination of complacency, apathy and mediocrity, and this team is no longer fun — it's just sort of there, and it's just going through the motions every year.
I still think that's true overall, and Northwestern almost certainly won't get blown out like this against Michigan. Hell, the Wildcats could still make a bowl game. But this game was a lot worse than that. Not only is Northwestern just irrelevant, but today, it was a laughing stock nationally. It was reminiscent of the Illinois game in 2012, when we all laughed at the Illini's inability to do anything right.
It's hard to figure out why that's happening now, with so much more talent than this team had before, but it really makes you wonder what is happening in player development, and why Pat Fitzgerald is basically unfireable through 2020.
I'd like to say things will get better. Justin Jackson is an absolute stud, the young talent on defense has proven itself at times and Clayton Thorson looks like the real deal he's made out to be. That's what I keep telling people to keep them from jumping off the ledge. But damn, after days like today, it sure is hard to believe that things are going to turn around.